When many people think of losing weight, one of the first things that comes to mind is getting a totally toned and taut tummy. After all, who doesn't want to be able to slip into a pair of jeans without having to deal with a muffin top? Plus, losing belly fat is a surefire way to improve your health: Research links a larger waist size to heart disease, diabetes, and even some cancers. That said, we hate to break it to you, but doing hundreds of crunches every day isn't the best way to lose belly fat. In fact, exercises that promote spot reduction just don't exist.
Try this treadmill workout: Walk or jog on an incline for five to 10 minutes. Maintain a jog for another five to 10 minutes, then pick your pace up again and start running. "This doesn't have to be an all-out sprint," says Penfold, but you should be working hard enough that you can't carry a conversation. Spend five minutes running, then drop your pace back down to a jog. Continue alternating with five to 10 minutes of jogging and five to 10 minutes of running for 30 to 45 minutes.
There are a variety of definitions of what moderate-intensity exercise is, but it typically falls between about 70 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate, which would be a level 4 to 6 on a 10-point perceived exertion scale. That means you are breathing harder than normal but can carry on a conversation without much difficulty and you feel pretty comfortable with what you're doing. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) often recommends this level of intensity in its exercise guidelines. The lower end of this range usually incorporates the fat burning zone.
Still, it’s a worthy goal to lose belly fat because it’s “unfortunately the most dangerous location to store fat,” says Lawrence Cheskin, MD, chair of the department of nutrition and food studies at George Mason University and director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center. Because belly fat—also known as visceral fat, or the deep abdominal fat that surrounds your organs—is more temporary, it circulates throughout the bloodstream more regularly and is therefore likelier to raise the amount of fat in your blood, increasing your blood sugar levels and putting you at a greater risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Research also finds that drinking frequently—even if it’s a moderate amount—can set you up for excess pudge. Not only do the beverages themselves contain unnecessary calories, but once you start sipping too much, your inhibition also plummets, according to one 2016 study. The result? You’ll have a hard time resisting that late-night slice of pizza. So if you're going to imbibe, be sure to stick to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks for men.
Many television ads are now pitching devices that supposedly stimulate muscles to contract repeatedly without exercise. I even saw an infomercial for an "ab belt" that claimed it does the work of 700 sit-ups in 10 minutes! The ad shows people doing various abdominal exercises the wrong way, hating every second of it, versus smiling men and women going about their days with "Ab-whatevers" strapped around them. How enticing!
Give crosstraining a go. Whatever your workout is — whether it's a 15 minute walk with the dog or a 10K through the park — your body gets used to it. You can actually burn fewer calories when your body is familiar with the level and type of exertion it's experiencing. So to keep your body a bit off guard, try crosstraining. Consider it a good excuse to pick up that hobby you've been eying.
How to do lateral medicine ball slams: Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart with the medicine ball on one side. Pick up the ball and simply rotate your body as you slam the ball a few inches away from your pinky toe. Make sure to pivot your feet and bend the back knee as you come into a split squat position to catch the ball on one bounce. Alternate sides. Make sure you tighten your core as you bring the ball overhead and to the side.
It may seem like a no-brainer that regular exercise can help you burn fat and lose weight. But it's not just about the calories you're burning. It's also about the adaptations your body makes when you exercise on a regular basis. Many of those adaptations lead directly to your ability to burn more fat without even trying. When you exercise regularly:
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If you're not up for crunching numbers every day, you can take a more generalized approach. “For some people, it’s knowing, ‘Typically I eat a whole sandwich,’” says Gagliardi. “Now, I’m going to eat half a sandwich at lunch and save the other half for my dinner and cut my calories in half." To get started, consider these 25 ways to cut 500 calories a day.
Incorporate a 12-hour fast. Don't panic — most of this fast occurs while you sleep. Restricting your eating to 12 hours a day may help you lose weight, according to one study. You should still eat your recommended daily calories, but limit yourself to only eating during a 12 hour period. So you might eat breakfast at 7am and cut yourself off from eating after 7pm. Though it is not fully understood, this 12-hour fasting period may cause your body to switch from burning food to burning fat.