Getting a flat stomach is a common fitness goal and not only makes you look better but can have a positive impact on your health. Having excess belly fat increases your likelihood of suffering from heart disease, high blood pressure, breast cancer, type 2 diabetes and other conditions. There are a number of ways to lose belly fat, including beginning a running routine.
Though it's often thought that abdominal exercises such as crunches are the key to getting a flat stomach, well-defined abs won't do much if they are covered by layers of belly fat. There are two types of fat that contribute to belly fat: subcutaneous fat located under the skin and visceral fat within the abdominal cavity itself. To get a flatter stomach, you need to burn both types of fat so your underlying muscle definition shows through.
To get rid of belly fat you need to burn more calories than you take in, causing your body to burn fat to make up the caloric difference. It takes a deficit of 3,500 calories to burn 1 pound of fat, meaning you need to remove at least 500 calories a day more from your body than you take in to lose 1 pound per week. Your body can burn fat from all over your body to meet its needs, but fortunately the visceral fat in your abdomen is often some of the first fat the body burns.
Running for Weight Loss
Running is a good exercise for burning fat because it burns a large number of calories. The exact number of calories burned while running depends on the speed at which you run, how long you run and your current weight. A 160-pound individual burns approximately 606 calories per hour when running at 5 miles per hour, while a 200-pound individual burns approximately 755 calories per hour at the same speed. This is significantly higher than many forms of exercise, including resistance training; researchers in a 2011 study at the Duke University Medical Center found that participants performing aerobic exercise lost significant amounts of visceral fat and burned up to 67 percent more calories than those performing resistance training exercises.
The more often you run, the more often you will burn calories and the faster you will lose weight. Some people are able to run every day without difficulty, but keep in mind that running every day of the week isn't a necessity to flatten your stomach. The Harvard Medical Center recommends that you engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity such as brisk walking or light running on most days, though this doesn't mean you have to run every single day. If you have difficulty running every day, try running every other day or on a similar schedule.
While running burns calories and promotes cardiovascular health, it is also a high-impact exercise that can damage the joints and cause other injuries if done incorrectly. Avoid drastically increasing your mileage or making sudden changes to your running program, and take care not to put too much strain on previously-injured joints. Start with brisk walking, progressing to jogging and running over time if you are out of shape. Use a knee brace or other protective accessories if necessary, and select supportive shoes with good tread on the soles. Perform warm-up exercises and stretches before you begin running to prepare your muscles and joints for your run, and slow to a walk or stop running if you experience pain or otherwise become injured.
Born in West Virginia, Jack Gerard now lives in Kentucky. A writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience, he has written both articles and poetry for publication in magazines and online. A former nationally ranked sport fencer, Gerard also spent several years as a fencing coach and trainer.