Dying to ditch the muffin top? Pilates and yoga help banish belly fat in more ways than one. You probably already know that physical activity burns calories for weight loss. What you may not know is that because these exercises help combat stress, they can help reduce the visceral fat that lies deep in your stomach. Visceral fat widens your waistline and contributes to diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other maladies. However, don't expect any Pilates or yoga moves to burn fat directly from your waistline -- there is no such thing as spot reduction.
No yoga moves will directly attack the fat around your middle. However, some poses will tone your stomach muscles for a firmer look. Rather than building large muscles, yoga focuses on strength, balance and flexibility. In fact, yoga shuns over-tightening muscles in the abdomen and elsewhere because this leads to reduced range of motion. Yoga postures that engage your abs include Boat Pose, Seated Forward Bend, Upward Bow Pose and Revolved Abdomen Pose. These moves lead to a stronger, yet relaxed core.
Pilates may work your stomach muscles even better than crunches, according to a study presented at the Annual Meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in 2008. Researchers observed subjects performing both types of exercise, and concluded that Pilates engaged the transversus abdominis and internal oblique muscles more effectively. To get these benefits, do 10 reps each of the Pilates hundred, double-leg stretch and roll up.
Overall Weight Loss
You can work your abs to death with yoga and Pilates but still not shave an inch off of your waistline. This is because diet matters more than exercise when it comes to fat loss, and your stomach will not shrink unless you lose fat all over. To lose weight, the Mayo Clinic advises cutting calories to 1,200 a day. Skip the sweets and fried foods, opting instead for whole foods that are raw, steamed, boiled or baked. Keep fats to a minimum, and get them from plant sources.
Losing the spare tire can do more than just enhance your figure -- it can save your life. Unlike fat that pads the hips, much of stomach fat is visceral. Visceral fat, located behind the abdominal wall, emits fatty acids into the liver and bloodstream, contributing to high cholesterol. Visceral fat also releases more retinol-binding protein 4 (RBP4) than the subcutaneous fat that sits just beneath the skin. RBP4 increases insulin resistance, encouraging diabetes. If your waist is larger than 35 inches, you are in the danger zone.
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.