Oh, that coveted slender waistline -- if only it were just a few crunches away! This may be hard to swallow, but the fact is that no exercise will give you a lean waist all on its own. You simply can't choose where your body burns fat. But don't despair -- you can help de-bulge your waist with both diet and exercise, which together melt fat all over your body. Then, practice core-toning moves to add muscle definition to your middle. A healthy waist circumference for women is 34 inches or smaller; any larger and you are at greater risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even breast cancer.
When it comes to exercise, cardio is your golden ticket to a trimmer physique, and by default a leaner waist. In fact, Harvard Medical School reports that aerobic exercise helps keep visceral belly fat, the most dangerous kind, at bay. If you don't exercise at all right now, ease into a routine by walking briskly for 45 minutes a day, five days a week. If you're at a moderate or advanced fitness level, go for a jog or run, or use gym equipment such as the elliptical machine or stair treadmill for an hour a day, five to six days per week.
Spot exercises won't directly affect either visceral or subcutaneous fat, but they will tighten your abdominal muscles for a sleeker appearance. Situps and crunches are two classic choices, and you can increase your resistance by incorporating an exercise ball into your routine. At the gym, use a cable to perform standing twisting crunches, or try incline situps.
Not all exercises are meant to burn calories. Yoga poses, guided meditation and even simple breathing exercises may not seem to affect your fat stores, but they can do more for your waistline than you realize by reducing stress. You see, stress signals your body to release the hormone cortisol. Cortisol prompts your body to pack fat between your internal organs, leading to dangerous cardiovascular conditions, increased blood sugar and more. Each night, spend 20 minutes before bed unwinding to help whittle your waist.
As badly as you may long to work off the weight with exercise, all your sweating will be in vain without a healthy eating plan. Steer clear of trans fats, as well as products sweetened with fructose. These foods may contribute to stomach fat. Include plenty of calcium in your diet to help discourage visceral fat buildup. No matter what you eat, calories count; you'll only lose weight by consuming fewer calories than you burn off.
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.