Are There Exercises to Lose Belly Fat?

By Temma Ehrenfeld @temmaehrenfeld
July 28, 2023
Are There Exercises to Lose Belly Fat?

You can tone your abdominal muscles, but there really aren’t exercises to lose belly fat. Instead, you need aerobics and weight loss. Here's what you should know.

People ask their trainers all the time about how to lose belly fat. You’ll see late-night ads for “ab belts” that promise to give you a narrow waist and flat belly and stories headlined “Shrink Your Belly in Five Moves!”

But there are no exercises to lose belly fat.

A heavy woman could do lots of crunches and tighten up her abdominal muscles, but the effort alone won’t melt the fat on top of that muscle. She still needs an overall fitness plan that includes aerobics and weight loss


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Health risks of a big belly

Getting there is important because a big belly isn’t healthy. It indicates invisible visceral fat, stored underneath and around important internal organs, including the liver, pancreas, and intestines. It’s killer fat even if you’re not especially heavy: You risk getting high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, dementia, and some cancers.

In a study of data drawn from more than 15,000 adults, men of normal weight who had large waistlines — a high waist-to-hip ratio — were twice as likely to have died during a 14-year study period than people who were overweight but had small waistlines. Apple-shaped women were also more likely to die than heavy women with smaller waists.

A waistline of more than 35 inches in women and greater than 40 in men is usually too high. To measure your waist, circle a measuring tape around the smallest area, usually just above your belly button, while you stand. To measure your hips, pick the largest area, usually the widest part of your buttocks.

You can plug your numbers into various online calculators to determine your hip-to-waist ratio. Women should aim for a ratio of .80 or less, men .90 or less

Exercises to lose belly fat?

Core strengthening exercises could help you narrow your waist, if it allows you to be more active in general, but they really aren’t exercises to lose belly fat. A strong core is the secret of good posture. You need your core every time you turn around or bend to put on your shoes.

Many people first hear about their core when they develop tight back and shoulder muscles from slouching at their desks at work and talk to a trainer or yoga teacher. Core exercises also help people with low back pain.

In addition, your core is essential for balance, which often diminishes with age. Fearing falls, the elderly may cut back on exercise, when they actually need to strengthen their core and improve their balance.

So, don’t think of planks and crunches as exercises to lose belly fat. Think of them as exercises to stand tall and stay active. With good posture, you’ll look thinner and more confident, and you’ll be breathing more deeply, which contributes to staying calm.

How to lose weight

Now on to that belly fat. Improving your diet and burning more calories can help you lose weight throughout your body. You may need more sleep or to break habits like eating in the middle of the night. Bellies grow when we’re stressed out, so make sure you get time in nature or knitting or bonding with friends — whatever you know keeps you sane.  

Get your heart rate up. Aerobic exercise will help you lose visceral fat, according to research from Duke University. In a study of 196 overweight, sedentary adults, ages 18 to 70, people who performed exercises equivalent to jogging 12 miles a week at 80 percent maximum heart rate over eight months lost about 2.5 square inches of belly fat, as measured on a CT scan.   


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July 28, 2023

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN