Teens and twenty-somethings eat an endless supply of pizza and tacos and never have to think about the fatty consequences. Unfortunately, this carefree metabolic lifestyle does not last forever, whether it’s because of hormonal changes, bad genes, or just getting older, you may be noticing a belly lump creeping over your belt – especially into your 30s and 40s.
The bad news, gaining fat in your abdomen is very, very unhealthy when compared with other locations in your body. Extra belly fat increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes and few types of cancers. The good news is that, if you readily embrace the idea that this naturally occurring process is happening to you, it makes it easier to change your bad habits and make the few necessary lifestyle changes that will help you win the battle over your belly fat.
The Gathering Abdominal Storm
As we age and our metabolism shifts down a couple of gears and the overally percent of body fat in the body slowly builds. Men pack it on mostly in the belly and back and women in the in the arms, legs and hips (after menopause it shifts more to the abdomen).
Most people think belly fat is limited to the flabby roll out front that you can grab with both hands, but it’s the deeper abdominal fat that cannot be seen that is really a cause for concern. This Visceral fat resides deep inside the abdomen cavity, surrounding the vital organs. Accumulating this type of fat has been linked to heart disease, diabetes and many other health problems. The fat located between the skin and your abdominal muscles (subcutaneous fat), is a serious visual blight but less likely to be a serious health risk.
Your slowing metabolism and decrease in physical activity contribute to a steady weight gain as you get older, interestingly, those factors do not influence visceral fat gain directly. For this you can blame your mom and dad, because heredity appears to be the culprit – you may simply have inherited a bias to gain weight primarily in your belly.
Some men and women experience a fatter waist without gaining any weight. You may not be packing-on additional fat, but a shift is occurring from your limb and hip fat to your mid-section. Even in men and women of a normal weight, too much fat located in the midsection is very unhealthy.
Deep Abdominal Fat Really Matters
Increasing fat in your abdomen does a lot more harm than making your shirts and pants too tight. While packing-on the pounds in general can have serious health effects, deep abdominal weight gain is remarkably unhealthy. This type of belly fat increases your risk of many diseases:
-High blood Pressure
Abdominal fat cells are not just benign energy waiting to be used as fuel. These fat cells are active and produce hormones and substances that can adversely affect your health. As an example, fat-cell-produced hormones can create insulin resistance (type 2 diabetes); some fat cells can produce female hormones after menopause (increasing breast and prostate cancer risks). This is a newer field of study, but this much is known; too much visceral fat can negatively change the body’s normal hormonal balance.
Measuring the Mid-Section
Question, you’ve gained a flabby roll around your torso, so how can you know if it’s in an unhealthy zone? Answer, calculate your body mass index (BMI) or waist-hip ratio. Simply measuring your waist can tell you if you have an unhealthy amount of belly fat, in fact, BMI is becoming thought of as a less accurate measure of overall body fat percentage.
Measure your waist by running a tape measure around your belly at about navel level. Breathe normally and do not tighten your belly, and do not pull the measuring tape so tight that it distorts your skin down. In women, a waist measurement of 35 inches-plus is an unhealthy concentration of deeper abdominal fat, for men it’s 33 inches. A measurement of 32 inches or more, no matter what you weigh, increases your adverse health risks.
Fighting Belly Fat with Fire
Because Visceral fat is located deep inside your abdominal cavity, you could conclude that it may seem like a difficult spot for targeted reduction. It turns out, that visceral fat reacts well to a regular exercise regimen and a healthy, calorie-controlled diet. Targeted abdominal exercises help to firm the abdominus rectus (your abdominal muscles) and flattens the belly.
Daily exercise of moderate-intensity is the best way to burn belly fat. When you increase your toned muscle mass and lose weight, your belly fat begins to be used as fuel and incinerates. You will notice that your tummy lump is the very first area to flatten when you start an exercise program. Talk to your doctor about the amount and type of exercise you should get to promote good health and specifically combat abdominal fat.
Strength training, exercising with weights is effective in blasting the belly lump and should be incorporated into your comprehensive exercise routine.
Changing unhealthy eating habits and adopting a healthy, calorie-controlled diet is necessary for success in your quest to fight belly fat. Become a nutrition label reader, and replace saturated fats with healthy, polyunsaturated fats. Eat more complex carbohydrates like fruits and vegetables, and reduce simple carbohydrates such as white bread and pasta. If your main goal is to lose belly fat, you must reduce your portion sizes and control daily calorie intake. This is the way to your flat belly.
While you can not specifically target belly fat, you can tone up your abdominal muscles and get a smoother, flatter belly. Sit-ups are not the most effective way to tone your abdominal muscles, instead, use these exercises to target both deeper and lower abdominal muscles:
Toning Your Deeper abdominal muscles.
Abdominal Bicycle Crunch
Lie on the floor with hands clasped behind your head to hold lightly, elbows pointing to your sides. Bend your knees to all the way to your chest. Bring the right knee and left elbow together, try to have them touch; at the same time, extend your left leg about 45-degrees above the floor. Lower your extended leg close to the floor to make more challengeing if it no lower back. Do not strain–go as far as is comfortable to. Repeat on the other side, bringing your right elbow and left knee together while extending your right leg. Alternate sides. Each alternating side equals one repetition. Be sure it is your torso twisting–not just just your neck.
Sit on the edge of a solid chair with your feet flat on the carpet. Sit up straight, lengthen your spine. Hold the seat of the chair on both side of your hips. Breathe out and slowly bring your knees to your chest, try not to arch or strain your lower back. Hold for two to three seconds. Slowly lower your legs and breathe in. Raise and lower your legs to make this flat stomach exercise more challenging or by by using both arms to hold yourself in the air!
Hip Lift Exercise
Lie on flat on your back, arms to the sides, hands palms-side down. Lift your legs so the bottoms of your feet are facing the sky; your legs should be at a 90-degree angle to your torso. Lift your hips off the floor, upward toward the ceiling. Make sure you’re lifting with your abs, not by pressing downward on your hands; your hands are there simply to keep you balanced. It’s all right if your hips come far enough forward your straight legs angle toward your head. Slowly lower your hips back to the floor. Continue raising and lowering your hips.
Lower abdominal muscles.
Double Leg Lifts
Lie flat on your back, with your hands placed under your butt, with hands facing the floor. Contract your lower ab muscles, and tighten the muscles of your legs, raise them straight up vertically, and hold them there for a 2-3 seconds. Lower them down until they are a few inches off the floor, and hold it there again for a few seconds. Repeat 5-8 times to begin with. Later, as you feel your abs getting stronger, increase the reps to 15-20 times. Then, as you get even stronger, you can lift your head and shoulders off the carpet while performing the more leg lifts.
Alternating Leg Walks
Start by lying supine (on your back), place your hands under your butt, and take 2-3 deep breaths. Contract the lower abdominal muscles and raise your right leg up slowly, until it is perpendicular to your body. The, equally slowly, lower it back down, until it is a 2-3 inches off the carpet, while at the same time raising your left leg. Keep raising your legs alternatively about 9-11 times to begin. As your abs become more strong, increase the count to 16-22 times. Lift your head and shoulders off the carpet while performing the exercise.
Double Leg Reverse Crunches
Lie down flat on your back, with your hands clasped under your butt. Lift both legs up until they are perpendicular to the ground. Bend your legs at the knees, so that the lower part is parallel to the carpet. Contract your lower abs, and maintain your bent knees, while gradually lower your legs until the soles of your feet are just a 2-3 inches off the floor. Keep your abdominals contracted and hold this position for a 2-3 seconds. Increasing the contraction in your abs, raise your knees up again, towards your chest. This is a more difficult exercise, so begin by doing just 4-6 reps. As you get stronger, increase the reps gradually, until you can do 16-22 reps.
Start by lying supine (on your back), with your hands clasped under your butt, contract your lower abs and tighten your leg muscles and raise both your legs up, until they are about 2-3 feet off the carpet. Without bending the knees, get your right leg across your left leg, so that both of your legs are crossed. Open your legs, and close them, reversing the positions of the legs. Keep repeating this scissor action, keep your lower abs contracted, about 9-12 times, to start with. Then, increase that to 16-22 reps as you become stronger.
Getting a flat belly and keeping it has always taken the one-two punch of toning and controlling calories. Adopting a well-rounded, fun exercise program and healthy eating habits will get you to great abs before you know it and banish the flab forever!