Banish Belly Fat
You want to reduce belly fat so your jeans fit better, but there’s a better reason to trim your tummy. In a new study of more than 104,000 people published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, women whose waists measured more than 42 inches were about twice as likely to die from any cause over a nine-year period than women with smaller waists.
In fact, abdominal, or visceral, fat is worse for your health than excess pounds on your hips or thighs. Belly fat is nestled deep between your organs and has been linked to inflammation in the body, a contributor to many chronic diseases. “Visceral fat is a risk factor for developing type-2 diabetes and heart disease,” says Dr. Caitlin Mason, a postdoctoral fellow at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center who has researched abdominal fat. “It’s involved in disrupting blood-sugar regulation and is associated with high cholesterol levels.”
Read on for five surprising ways to reduce belly fat -- for good.
Get your heart pumping.
Hate crunches? Good news: Spot exercising only tightens the stomach muscles; it’s cardio that makes a dent in visceral fat. In a yearlong study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, women who engaged in about 200 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week (that’s 40 minutes, five days a week) lost nearly 7 percent of their visceral fat. Those who attended only a weekly 45-minute stretching class actually gained ab fat.
Ban the trans.
Not all dietary fats are created equal when it comes to your body. Man-made trans fats, also called partially hydrogenated oils, are the worst. In a study published in the journal Obesity, when monkeys were fed similar diets with either monounsaturated fat or trans fats, those who ate the trans fats gained more weight -- especially in their stomachs. So avoid trans fats as much as possible while loading up on monounsaturated fats.
Foods high in trans fats include:
- Fried foods (doughnuts and french fries)
- Baked goods
- Stick margarine
Foods high in monounsaturated fats include:
- Canola oil
- Olive oil
Hit the snooze button.
You snooze, you losec...cstubborn belly fat!
In a study published in the journal Sleep, people who got less than five hours of sleep per night gained 7 pounds more visceral fat over a five-year period than those who got six hours of sleep per night.
Take time out of your crazy-busy day to curl up with a good book, soak in the tub or chat about your passions with friends. A study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine found that slim women with higher levels of abdominal fat secrete more of the stress hormone cortisol than slim women with less belly fat. (Researchers suspect that cortisol promotes accumulation of body fat, specifically around the middle.) Since the body produces cortisol in reaction to stress, determine -- and practice! -- strategies that lower your anxiety level.
Build more muscle
Once you’ve dropped the belly fat, resistance training works as well as cardio to keep it at bay. Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham split up women who’d lost weight into three groups: strength trainers, aerobic exercisers and nonexercisers. Both exercise groups kept off ab fat, while nonexercisers’ ab fat increased by 25 percent. Just 80 minutes per week did the trick -- that’s only 20 minutes, four days a week! So add some strength moves to your cardio routine to mix up your routine and avoid workout burnout.
Ella Brooks is a New York City-based health writer and editor. Her articles have appeared in such national women's magazines as Shape, Prevention, Natural Health and Woman's Day.
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