Belly fat is more of a problem for women because they have a higher percentage of body fat than men. As women age, the percentage increases and fat begins to deposit more in the midsection than in the lower body. Belly fat, particularly deep visceral fat that surrounds internal organs, is linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancers, dementia and even asthma. Losing weight around the midsection is important for continued health and to reduce the risk of developing these health conditions. A comprehensive approach to weight loss, toning and general health is required since spot reduction is ineffective in reducing belly fat.
In order to lose weight from your mid-section, it is important to incorporate cardiovascular exercise into your daily routine. Women should aim for 30 minutes of activity at least five days each week. Cardiovascular exercise is as simple as taking a walk or going for a quick bike ride. Start off with moderate intensity exercise, which is measured by the ability to talk and keep a conversation while working out. If you are so winded that you cannot talk, slow down a bit to avoid working yourself too hard. Exercise increases the amount of calories your body burns, reduces the amount of fat your body stores and even burns stored belly fat.
Strength Training and Toning
Strength training exercises are also effective to reduce belly fat and can also help fat cells from depositing in the mid-section as well. The University of Michigan cites a study in which women performed one hour of strength training, twice a week, and experienced a 4 percent reduction in body fat -- including harmful visceral fat around the abdominal organs. Once belly fat is reduced, toning exercises, such as situps or crunches, can help tone the abdominal muscles for a flatter appearance. Toning exercises, however, do not reduce deep visceral fat.
To lose belly fat, it is important for women to eat a healthy diet. MayoClinic.com recommends eating a diet rich in foods such as vegetables, whole grains and fruits. Lean proteins and low-fat dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt are healthy additions to the diet which may aid in fat reduction and could reduce the amount of visceral fat deposited within the body. Certain foods, such as those containing hydrogenated vegetable oils and fructose, may increase belly fat deposits and should be limited or avoided as much as possible.
Factors other than diet and exercise play a role in the reduction and prevention of belly fat in women. Women who smoke have a higher risk of storing fat in the abdominal region; therefore steps should be taken to stop the habit. A good night’s rest may also have an impact on belly fat, especially for women older than age 40. Try to get at least six to eight hours of sleep per night. Finally, reduce your stress levels and work to maintain good, even moods. If you experience symptoms of depression, talk with your doctor about possible treatments. Depression and anger or hostility can increase a woman’s amount of visceral belly fat. Finding activities that you enjoy can decrease stress levels and provide an outlet for tension that builds up throughout the day.
Amber Canaan has a medical background as a registered nurse in labor and delivery and pediatric oncology. She began her writing career in 2005, focusing on pregnancy and health. Canaan has a degree in science from the Cabarrus College of Health Sciences and owns her own wellness consulting business.