You can treadmill your way to a slimmer waist, but not because running specifically zaps belly flab. Running on a treadmill, like all cardiovascular exercise, is an effective calorie-burning method. And the more calories you burn, the more fat you lose all over. Adopt an interval training routine to increase your fat-burning potential even more.
Spot Reduction Not Effective
On the one hand, you can't specifically slim your waistline. You can only slim your whole body. Multiple scientific studies of the spot reduction strategy have failed to produce evidence supporting it. Basic biology also works against targeting specific areas for fat loss. When your muscles need fuel, they don't get it from the nearest raw fat cell. Instead, fat cells all over your body get processed into free fatty acids and glycerols, which reach hungry muscles via the bloodstream.
Advantages of Running
On the other hand, you can slim your waist more effectively by running on a treadmill than you can by exercising with specific muscle groups in mind. Exercises performed in the pursuit of spot reduction, such as crunches and situps, don't generally burn enough calories to significantly reduce fat deposits anywhere in the body. Cardiovascular exercise, such as walking, jogging, running or bicycling, is much more effective at burning calories.
You can burn even more calories by alternating short bursts of high-intensity activity with recovery periods of moderate activity during your workout session. This is known as interval training, and studies have shown that it improves cardiovascular ability and fat-burning potential by leaps and bounds. In one study, a mere seven interval training workouts over two weeks increased the amount of fat subjects burned during an hour of continuous moderate bicycling by 36 percent.
Creating Your Routine
Your optimum interval training regimen will depend on your ability level. When programming your treadmill, keep in mind that for maximum effectiveness your sprint periods should last long enough to get you out of breath. Shoot for between one and four minutes of exercise at 80 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. And don't stay in recovery mode long enough for your pulse to return to its resting rate.
If you have heart disease, high blood pressure or a chronic health condition, consult your doctor before adopting an interval training regimen. Your doctor may suggest shorter periods of high-intensity activity. You should also seek medical advice before interval training if you have arthritis or other joint problems, or if you are over 60.
Even if you're in the best of health, don't risk overuse injury by throwing yourself into too strenuous a workout from the get-go. Start slowly and increase your workout gradually. Have patience; even with very brief high-intensity periods, interval training can yield surprising results.
Nicole LeBoeuf-Little is a freelancer from New Orleans, writing professionally since 1994. Recent short stories appear on Ideomancer.com and in Ellen Datlow's anthology "Blood and Other Cravings." She has published articles in "Pangaia Magazine" and eGuides at StyleCareer.com. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from University of Washington and attended the professional SF/F workshop Viable Paradise.