Crunch all you want – it won’t budge that stubborn lower belly fat. In fact, no single abdominal exercise will remove fat from your abs. Even more troublesome: some types of lower body fat are associated with several health problems, particularly for women. To show off a sleek lower belly and reduce your risk of disease, burn fat all over by combining cardio, a moderate diet and stress reduction techniques.
Belly Fat and Disease
There are two types of belly fat: subcutaneous fat that’s just below the skin and visceral fat that resides in and between organs. Subcutaneous fat is the fat you can pinch and isn’t too much of a health concern. Likewise some visceral fat provides cushioning for organs and is completely normal. Too much visceral fat, however, disrupts hormone production and increases risks for heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer and gallbladder issues.
A 2008 study showed that the most effective way to reduce abdominal visceral fat is a high-intensity training program. Participants that performed exercises above their lactate threshold three times each week lost abdominal fat, while those training at lower intensities showed no significant changes. To work out at this intensity, find a challenging intensity that you can maintain for about half an hour. Alternately, try high-intensity intervals, alternating very intense efforts with short periods of recovery for the same amount of time.
Make the most of your consistent cardio efforts by adopting a moderate diet that combines fruits, vegetable and whole grains with lean proteins and low-fat dairy. Replace saturated fats like those found in cheese and high-fat meats with healthier fats from moderate amounts of fish, nuts and some oils. Reducing stress and building coping skills can also help. In a 2000 study, researchers found a relationship between ability to manage stress, cortisol production and increased abdominal fat, even in otherwise lean women.
Include the Transverse Abdominis Muscles
As mentioned, no single exercise can remove fat, but working the transverse abdominal muscles can help your waist appear smaller as you burn fat. Known as the pelvic girdle, these muscles lie deep inside the abdomen work with other abdominal muscles to support the entire abdomen. The end result: a smaller waistline. Exercises that work the transverse abdominis include planks and plank variations, yogic boat pose and Pilates core work.
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: The Effect of Abdominal Exercise on Abdominal Fat
- Harvard Health Publications: Abdominal Fat and What To Do About It
- Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise: Effect of Exercise Training Intensity on Abdominal Visceral Fat and Body Composition.
- MayoClinic.com: Belly Fat in Women: Taking – and Keeping – It Off
- Psychosomatic Medicine: Stress and Body Shape: Stress-induced Cortisol Secretion is Consistently Greater Among Women with Central Fat.
Jennifer Arnett is a writer and editor focused on health and wellness, consumer technology and green living. She has written for several organizations and websites. Arnett holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and writing.