Crunches, sit-ups and other abdominal workouts help tone and tighten tummy muscles, but they do little to reduce stomach fat. The key to total body weight loss, toned muscles, and reduced stomach fat is a combination of aerobic and strength training exercises. Here’s how it works.
You Body’s Energy Sources
When you burn more calories than you eat, your body turns to existing fat deposits for energy. Running is an ideal way to use up those calories, but you must run for controlled, sustained periods if you want to trim tummy fat.
Your primary source of immediate energy is carbohydrates, which your body converts to glycogen. This circulates in your bloodstream until you don’t need it anymore. Then, excess glycogen is stored in muscles where your body can access it easily in the future.
When you exercise for short periods, such as running from the parking lot to a store entrance, your body burns glycogen, but not oxygen. It’s not until your body uses oxygen for energy that it starts to burn fat deposits for fuel.
Fat-Burning Sweet Spot
To burn the most fat possible, shoot for a moderate-intensity aerobic exercise at around 70 percent of your maximum target heart rate. This usually includes activities like brisk walking or light jogging. If you exercise at a higher intensity than this, your body burns carbohydrates and you tire out faster.
One way to estimate your maximum target heart rate is to subtract your age from 220. Your specific maximum heart rate will depend on your weight, fitness level and existing medical conditions.
The Department of Health and Human Services suggests 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days a week to maintain your current weight. You will probably need more to actually reduce stomach fat and lose weight. For perspective, a 180-lb person can burn 820 calories by running at a consistent pace of 6 miles per hour for one hour.
Additional Fat-Burning Tips
The Mayo Clinic suggests engaging in strength training at least two times per week as well. Strength training is geared toward toning muscles, which accompanies fat loss to create a lean, tight appearance in your stomach and any other areas that you incorporate into your strength-training routine.
People with apple-shaped bodies store fat in the stomach area. People with pear-shaped bodies store fat in their hips, thighs and buttocks. No matter what your body shape is, you can expect running to reduce fat in these areas since aerobic exercise burns fat from wherever it’s stored. Just remember to talk to your doctor before you begin a running program to lose weight and reduce stomach fat.