As if contributing to annoying stomach bulge isn't bad enough, internal belly fat, called visceral fat, also jeopardizes your health in some scary ways. Excess visceral fat is linked to diabetes, heart disease and breast cancer; if your waist measures 35 inches or larger, you may have dangerous levels of the stuff. As unsavory as visceral fat may be, there is hope -- most women shed it more quickly than the subcutaneous fat you can pinch.
Get your aerobic groove on with at least 250 minutes per week of moderate cardio activities such as brisk walking, running or riding a bicycle. Performing cardio is among the most effective actions you can take to fight internal belly fat, according to Kerry Stewart, director of clinical research at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Try five 50-minute cardio sessions per week, or break workouts into sessions as short as 10 minutes apiece.
Perform strength training moves for all muscle groups three times per week. Although you can't specifically target internal belly fat, toning exercises boost your metabolism to help you burn fat faster all over. Strength-training exercises include lifting weights, using resistance bands or performing pushups, pullups, crunches and squats. Perform two to four sets of eight to 12 repetitions for each exercise.
Cut back to 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day, a healthy amount for women striving to lose fat, according to recommendations from California State University, Long Beach. Achieve this by skipping fast food and pastries, but include all food groups in your diet: protein, grains, fats, fruits and vegetables.
Consume at least three servings of whole grains and less than one serving of refined grains each day. In a study published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in 2010, subjects who followed this eating pattern had 10 percent less internal stomach fat. Whole-grain choices include oatmeal, brown rice and whole-wheat breads or tortillas; refined no-nos include white rice and any bread or pasta made with white flour. Labels can be deceiving, so check the ingredients list to ensure products are 100-percent whole grain.
Sleep six to seven hours per night. Getting more or less shuteye is linked to higher levels of visceral fat and greater overall body mass, according to a study published in "Sleep" journal in 2010.
- Harvard Health Publications: Taking Aim at Belly Fat
- American College of Sports Medicine: ACSM Position Stand on Physical Activity and Weight Loss Now Available
- American College of Sports Medicine: ACSM Issues New Recommendations on Quantity and Quality of Exercise
- Medical News Today: Less Refined, More Whole Grains Linked To Lower Body Fat
- California State University Long Beach Health Resource Center: Nutrition and Weight
- Pubmed.gov: Sleep Duration and Five-Year Abdominal Fat Accumulation in a Minority Cohort: The IRAS Family Study
- Space strength-training workouts at least 48 hours apart to promote healthy muscle recovery.
- See your doctor before starting a new weight-loss routine.
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.