If you're aching to shrink your tummy, here's an uplifting fact: visceral fat, which sits deep in your belly, comes off more easily for women than hip and thigh fat, according to Harvard Medical School. That's sweet news for your waistline, and also important for your overall health -- visceral fat is linked to diabetes, heart disease and cancer. If you've been inactive in recent years, see a doctor before starting a weight-loss routine.
The fastest route to a smaller tummy is through overall fat loss, which is best achieved with a reduced-calorie diet. Aim to consume no more than 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day, which helps women drop about 2 pounds per week, according to the University of Minnesota Medical School. Skip the drive-through and cook at home using fresh veggies, lean proteins such as tuna and tempeh and whole grains like oatmeal, buckwheat noodles and whole-rye bread. Snack on fruits and nonfat yogurt, and sip plenty of water throughout the day to prevent thirst-induced "hunger" pangs.
Cardio is super-efficient for torching calories, so get 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic exercise most days of the week. You don't need any expensive equipment for a killer cardio workout; go for a power walk or run, dance along to a Zumba video or take a few laps in the pool. If you prefer the gym, head for the stationary bike, stepmill, treadmill or elliptical trainer. Not only will you lose weight faster with cardio, but you'll also improve your heart health and build endurance for daily tasks.
There's no reason to wait to start toning -- build a total body-strengthening routine while you slim down to help the weight come off more quickly. You'll burn more calories, and as you gain muscle, your metabolism will increase slightly. Work your arms, legs, stomach, back, chest and hips. At home, try body-weight moves such as situps, pushups, squats and lunges. At the gym, use weight machines and free weights. Two to three days of strength training per week is optimal -- your muscles will take a pounding, so give them a full day of rest after workouts.
Visceral Fat Loss
Banish visceral fat for good with some unlikely remedies. Harvard recommends getting adequate sleep, which appears to make a difference in young adults. If you smoke, quitting may also decrease visceral fat levels because smokers are more likely to store fat in the belly. If you're stressed, chill out with meditation or other relaxation techniques -- anxiety triggers production of the hormone cortisol, which may cause you to pack on visceral fat.
- Harvard Health Publications: Taking Aim at Belly Fat
- University of Minnesota Medical School: Weight Loss Recommendations
- HelpGuide.org: How to Lose Weight and Keep It Off
- American College of Sports Medicine: ACSM, AHA Support Federal Physical Activity Guidelines
- MayoClinic.com: Strength Training: Get Stronger, Leaner, Healthier
- Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images
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