By Lucy Gornall
Wondering how to lose belly fat now the weather is heating up? Woman & Home's fitness editor reveals the best exercises you should try.
If there’s an area of our body that many of us hone in on, it’s the belly area. And whilst personally, I wish us as women would try to see past any supposed tummy bulge, there is scientific evidence to show that too much belly fat is dangerous.
Often, fat stored around the waist is visceral fat, which is the deeper fat often stored around important internal organs. The NHS state that having high levels of visceral fat has been linked to an increased risk of some chronic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes.
So, it makes sense that we’d want to shift it. But how?
As a Health and Fitness Editor and Personal Trainer, I do often get messages quizzing me on the best way to get rid of ‘a fat tummy’. Or, what’s the best exercise to lose belly fat.
Believe me, I WISH there was a magical workout that eradicated fat from the areas we wanted. However, you cannot spot reduce fat. You might find that Susan from down the road as been exercising lots and claims she’s lost tummy weight, yet she still has fat on her thighs that she wants to get rid of.
Or Karen from two doors down has said her regular runs have seen her shift the love handles but her bum ‘feels saggy’.
What I’m trying to say is, we carry fat in different areas and whilst a healthy lifestyle can eventually lessen this fat, we will gain fat in different areas, and lose fat in different areas at different rates. So Susan might lose fat all over yet her thighs are the last place it falls from. For yourself, you might find exercise helps slim your arms but the tummy bulge is the last area to go.
Saying all this, I do still have some tips on how you can burn belly fat...
Exercises to lose belly fat
OK, so as mentioned, exercise won’t spot reduce fat. BUT, High Intensity Interval Training is a good, quick way to torch calories in a short space of time. It gets your heart rate up fast and studies have shown that it could be effective at targeting belly fat.
I find that Youtube is an amazing resource for HIIT workouts that you can follow along. The general consensus though is a selection of moves done for a period of time (say, 30 seconds), followed by a break (say, another 30 seconds) and then keep repeating for a certain number of repetitions. It's tough but it's short and sweet and over before you know it!
Skipping is considered one of the cheapest, most effective, fat burning workouts you can do so it's also worth a go - Ruth Langsford has been swearing by it during lockdown!
Up the NEAT
This stands for Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis and includes all that day to day activity that you often do without thinking. I’m talking washing up, cleaning, getting up for coffee, taking the stairs etc. It’s these calories that can often rack up and contribute to fat loss.
READ MORE:How to get a flat stomach at any age
It’s such a simple activity but our bodies were made to walk. Interestingly, in 2018, Uganda was recognised as the most physically active nation in the world, according to a report by the World Health Organization. Not because they go to the gym a lot but because only 5.5% of Ugandans had an insufficient level of activity as they spent so much time walking and/or being in jobs that involved physical activity.
Many of us here will get into a car, get to work, sit down all day, get back in the car, and go home, to then sit on the sofa. We’ve barely clocked up a few thousand steps, never mind the recommended 10,000 steps a day!
Plus, if lockdown taught us anything, it’s the power of getting outside for physical and mental health. Walk where you can, meet friends for walks, ditch the car if you can….just walk!
You just had a mild panic attack didn’t you? Firstly, weights will NOT make you bulky. I promise you. Secondly, weights help to shape the body, thanks to the building of muscle (again, do not fear the word muscle!) and muscle burns more fat during rest than other tissue. So essentially, you could be sat down drinking your cup of tea (no sugar. Sorry!) and your body could be burning fat as you do so. Don’t get too excited though…you can’t just lift weights once a week and see weight fall off. But it will contribute.
More tips on how to reduce belly fat...
Count your calories
Weight loss is essentially calories in vs calories out. Expend more than you consume and you will lose weight. Other factors come into play such as hormones, behaviours and habits however this is the basic rule.
So, if you want to know what you’re burning, I do recommend a fitness tracker. This doesn’t need to cost the earth; in fact you can pick up a fancy Fitbit for about £50.
A word of warning though; you might be shocked at how little is burnt during a workout. Which is why it's important to bring up the NEAT - as mentioned above.
Reduce the sugar
Look, it is essentially the calories in vs calories out principle that I mentioned earlier but sugary, processed foods can really ramp that calorie count up (a pain au chocolat at 11am will add on 300 calories to your day and a staggering 13g of sugar). This refined sugar can cause the hormone insulin to spike, which is said to be a factor towards abdominal weight gain. There’s a reason why insulin is known as the ‘fat storing hormone’.
Watch out for hidden sugars by the way. That ‘healthy’ granola you pour liberally into your breakfast bowl every morning? It could contain a few hundred calories and over 20g of sugar. Considering we’re advised to eat no more than 30g of free sugars (take dairy, fruit, veg out of this equation) a day, this is quite a dent!
I recommend aiming for whole, natural foods and you won’t go too far wrong. And watch out for sugary drinks too! Liquids DO count.
I appreciate this isn’t easy in the current situation, but stress, anxiety and lack of sleep can all contribute to weight around the middle. This is thanks to the stress hormone cortisol, which we do need in small doses, however long term stress can keep cortisol elevated and studies have linked this high cortisol to weight gain around the middle.
Try to incorporate activities in your day to day that help calm you down. In fact, walking is quite good at this. Just saying.
Focus on good sleep also.
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