While crunches and other ab exercises get all the glory, they actually do little to burn belly fat. What they are good at, is helping to firm, flatten and strengthen the ab muscles that lie below the belly fat. 1 Unfortunately, you cannot target a particular part of your body to lose fat (aka spot reduction).
To lose belly fat, you need to lose body fat everywhere. This means burn more calories than you consume. That is through following a healthy, balanced diet and regular exercise.
There are two types of abdominal fat – superficial and deep belly fat. The superficial one found under your skin, called subcutaneous fat, is the fat you can feel when you pinch your belly.
The deep type of tummy fat is called visceral fat and is biologically very active, secreting a high proportion of hormones and other substances that have negative health effects and cause chronic low-level inflammation.
Visceral tummy fat is buried far inside you abdomen and surrounds your organs and intestines. A high level of this deep and dangerous belly fat is associated with a host of chronic medical disorders such as diabetes, heart disease and metabolic syndrome.
1 Focus on Cardio
The best exercise to lose belly fat is actually cardio. Studies show that cardiovascular exercise causes weight loss generally, but also burns belly fat specifically. The amount of abdominal fat you are able to lose with exercise is substantial. In fact, research shows that you can lose tummy fat – though a lesser amount – through regular exercise even without dieting and even if you don’t lose weight.23
People who exercise regularly are known to have less abdominal fat and smaller waists compared to people who are inactive.
Aim to exercise most days of the week, for 30 – 60 minutes. The more you exercise the more belly fat you lose.6
Music is a great aid to make you stick to you exercise routine. Research has proven that music makes us exercise longer and more intensely and reduces tiredness. 7
Read more: How to choosing the best exercise music
2 Up the Intensity
Exercise at high intensity if you can and your health allows. High intensity exercise has been shown to be more effective at burning belly fat than moderate intensity exercise. It also confers greater cardio-protective benefits.891011
Beginners should start with moderate intensity exercise, such as brisk walking. Research shows that brisk walking is also an effective way to lose belly fat.12 As you build stamina and fitness, simply increase the intensity of your workout.
Use this heart rate calculator to help you determine the heart rate at which you should exercise.
Take it easy and progress gradually, no matter your fitness level. Overtraining can cause the body to produce too much of the stress hormone cortisol. This hormone causes the body to actually increase belly fat.
3 Do HIIT Workouts
HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training, and involves alternating between low- and high-intensity bouts of exercise for up to 20 minutes.
If you want to lose belly fat fast, go for HIIT. Research shows that HIIT is an incredibly time-efficient way of reducing body fat, including belly fat. You get the same results as moderate exercise, but in less than half the time.131415
This is an intense form of training, so you need to have a good level of fitness. Read the guide below to find out how to get started with HIIT.
Read more: The Ultimate Guide to HIIT
4 Love What You Do
Use gym equipment or exercise outdoors. The best exercise is the one you enjoy most, are able to do safely and effectively, and suits your current fitness level.
Some great cardio exercises include:
If you want to get seriously fit try running, by implementing a beginners running plan. If you have joint or back problems try the elliptical machine, cycling, or some of these high-intensity exercises that are also low-impact (easy on the joints).
Also, talk to your doctor about the right exercise program for you, which will help you lose belly fat and improve health.
Read more: The best weight loss exercises
5 Incorporate Strength Training
Strength training is an important part of any weight loss strategy because it builds muscle mass. This is because not all the weight you lose is fat, some of it will be muscle mass. Muscle isn’t just important for general health, but it’s also metabolically active. More muscle means a boost in metabolism, making weight loss easier.
Strength training targeting the upper and lower body can help reduce the loss of muscle while you’re losing weight.16
Therefore, try to incorporate twice weekly whole body strength training workouts into your routine. Crunches and other ab exercises don’t burn belly fat, but do tone and strengthen your core.