If you've done thousands of crunches and are still wondering why you have stomach fat, you might be surprised to learn that cardio is king when it comes to burning fat. Aerobic exercise burns calories throughout your body and can help you shed fat much more quickly than targeted training. Depending upon your physical fitness level and time constraints, there are several different cardiovascular exercise techniques that can help you finally lose stomach fat and even see muscle peeking through.
Traditional forms of cardiovascular exercise include jogging, running, sprinting, cycling and jumping rope. These exercises, along with other forms of cardiovascular exercise, elevate your heart rate and work your entire body rather than targeting specific muscles. The total number of calories you'll burn with a cardiovascular routine varies with your age, sex and weight, but you can expect to burn more calories with cardio than you do with targeting specific muscles or groups of muscles. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults get 75 minutes of high-intensity cardio or 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio per week. To maximize your fitness benefits, you might want to work out even more than this.
Interval training is a variation on traditional cardio that uses intervals of high intensity alternated with lower intensity intervals. Interval training can intensify your workout and increase the calories you burn; it can even speed up your metabolism for several hours after a workout. To try interval training, increase the speed at which you're exercising to almost your maximum speed for 30 seconds to one minute, slow down for a minute and then increase your speed again. Repeat this process throughout your workout. For example, if you're running, try sprinting for 45 seconds, then slowing to a fast walk for a minute, then sprinting again.
Circuit training is aerobic exercise that incorporates resistance training. It can help you build muscle and burn fat, and if you're easily bored with exercise, it helps you mix up your routine to keep you engaged. To do circuit training, focus on three or four "circuits" that work different groups of muscles, then incorporate several exercises into each circuit. For example, you might decide to do two cardio circuits consisting of running, jumping rope or cycling, and then a circuit each of exercises that build muscle in your arms, abs and legs.
Importance of Diet
No matter how frequently or effectively you exercise, you won't lose weight if your diet is bad. You have to eliminate 3,500 calories to lose one pound of fat, and this usually requires a combination of regular exercise and calorie-cutting. Try eliminating unnecessary and unhealthy foods such as sugary snacks and sodas. This can remove several hundred calories from your daily caloric intake and help you see results much more quickly. Rather than eating three meals a day, try grazing on healthy snacks throughout the day and having two smaller meals. Foods such as almonds, pistachios and other high-protein foods can help you feel full without destroying your diet.
- MayoClinic.com: Rev Up Your Workout With Interval Training
- High Intensity Interval Training Explained; James Driver
- Circuit Training; Tony Donato et al.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?
- Brian Mac Sports Coach: Circuit Training
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.