Leg raises may shred your abdominal muscles, but they won't make a dent in belly fat -- spot reduction is a myth, and losing stomach flab requires a total weight-loss strategy. However, leg raises can be a good addition to your exercise arsenal, building strength and definition in your core muscles. Combine leg raises with a solid diet and workout plan, and the fat should disappear over time. See your doctor before starting a new weight-loss program.
About Leg Raises
There are two main types of leg raises: hanging and lying. Both work the same muscles in your abs, hips and thighs. While hanging leg raises require a sturdy bar or other gym equipment to hang from, you can perform lying leg raises anywhere with enough space for you to lie on your back. To perform either exercise, lift your knees toward your chest and hold your position for a second or two before lowering slowly back down. For optimal muscle toning, perform 12 leg raises in a row, rest and repeat for up to three total sets.
As strength-training exercises, leg raises were designed more for muscle building than calorie burning. Performing these and other body-weight moves, a 155-pound woman uses approximately 167 calories in 30 minutes. Considering a pound of fat is 3,500 calories, you can't rely on leg raises alone to banish pudge. For pure calorie burning, cardio is a superior option. For example, a 155-pound woman burns about 391 calories in half an hour with a vigorous session on a stationary bike, or about 409 calories running at 6.7 mph.
Visceral Stomach Fat
A large belly may be bad for more than your self-image. For women, a waist circumference of 35 inches or more indicates buildup of visceral fat deep in the midsection. Visceral fat is linked to diabetes and heart disease, but the good news is that you can knock it out with some lifestyle changes. For starters, reduce stress in your life and take up relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation because anxiety may trigger visceral fat storage, according to Harvard Medical School. Harvard also recommends avoiding trans fats, getting adequate sleep and quitting cigarettes.
Your diet matters most when it comes to weight loss, so keep portion sizes under control and choose lean, natural fare over fast and processed foods. Go for whole-wheat pasta, oatmeal, tofu, low-fat dairy and plenty of fruits and veggies. Drink plain or sparkling water instead of sodas, and snack on berries or baby carrots when the munchies hit. Learn to identify emotional eating, and only head to the kitchen when you're truly hungry.
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.