Fat is not just padding that can be seen under your skin (subcutaneous fat). A layer of visceral fat sits deep inside the abdomen and surrounds vital organs.
To lose belly fat, you must burn overall body fat, which means adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity, nutritious eating and lowered stress levels.
Exercise is important to any weight loss program, and it can be especially helpful in losing belly fat. Exercise can help trim your waistline by burning calories and strengthening your abdominal muscles.
However, it’s hard to target belly fat specifically with exercise alone. The body stores fat as triglycerides, and the specific location of those triglycerides is determined by your genetics and other factors. While spot exercises such as crunches can tone and strengthen your abs, they don’t burn belly fat.
Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days to reduce belly fat. Try activities such as brisk walking, biking at a casual pace and swimming. You can also add movement to routine tasks by parking farther away when shopping, taking the stairs instead of elevators and standing while on the phone. Incorporating crossbody mountain climbers into your routine can be a great way to engage multiple muscle groups and raise your heart rate.
Having excess belly fat, which is actually dangerous visceral fat that accumulates near your internal organs, raises your risk for serious health problems including heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. Luckily, you can lose this type of fat by combining healthy eating and exercise habits.
For instance, consuming more whole foods such as fruits, vegetables and lean proteins, along with cutting back on sugar-sweetened beverages, can help you trim your waistline. It’s also important to eat your meals early in the day, Ward says. Getting those calories in earlier may cause your body to clear glucose from the blood more efficiently.
Limiting alcohol can also help you lose belly fat, as can avoiding over-processed foods. And, try to incorporate some form of strength training into your daily routine, like pushing up from a chair or doing squats. Spot exercises, such as sit-ups, may tighten your ab muscles, but won’t banish belly fat on their own.
Probiotics are the good bacteria people ingest in their diet that help balance the gut microbiome and support the immune and digestive systems. These good bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids like butyrate, propionate and acetate that block fat absorption and boost fat-burning hormones in the body.
Studies suggest that a lack of diversity in the gut microbiome can influence obesity by promoting inflammation throughout the body. Probiotic supplements can reduce this inflammation and promote healthy weight loss.
A study published in The British Journal of Nutrition found that women taking the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus lost more belly fat than those taking a placebo. The women also maintained their healthy weight loss in the maintenance phase of the study.
Other strains of probiotics have shown promise in helping people lose belly fat. A study of obese or overweight adults that took the probiotic Lactobacillus gasseri for 12 weeks reduced weight, waist size and hip circumference as well as belly fat, which was accompanied by a reduction in BMI and body mass index.
Walking is one of the most effective exercises for burning belly fat, especially if you add a few minutes of jogging at the end of your walk. This will burn a lot more calories and help to build muscle. Walking also raises your basal metabolic rate, meaning you burn more calories throughout the day, even when at rest.
Experts recommend aiming for 30 to 90 minutes of brisk walking most days of the week, with the sweet spot being 45 minutes. Incorporate hills or stairs if possible to make your walks more challenging and to burn even more calories. Consider trying a pair of weighted shoes or ankle/wrist weights to add intensity and a muscle-toning component to your walking workout.
While you can’t “spot reduce” belly fat, regular exercise and a balanced diet will help you lose overall body fat, including the dangerous visceral fat that covers your organs. So get out there and start walking!