Excess belly fat can attract many health problems. In fact, a 2020 study published in the US National Library of Medicine showed that excess belly fat is associated with a higher risk of early death. It was found that each 10-centimeter increase in belly fat in women raised the risk of death by 8 percent. Many think that crunches or sit-ups can help people to get toned abs, but they might be wrong. So, switch to more effective exercises to burn belly fat.
Why is it important to burn belly fat?
Here are some reasons why you should lose belly fat:
1. Reduced risk of health issues
Excess belly fat, especially visceral fat (fat stored deep within the abdominal cavity), is associated with a higher risk of various health problems, says Harsh Gahlot, a Faridabad-based fitness coach. These include heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke.
2. Enhanced lung function
Belly fat can compress the diaphragm and limit lung expansion, and that may lead to breathing difficulties. Losing weight around the abdomen can improve lung function and make it easier to breathe, the expert tells Health Shots.
3. Improved mobility
Carrying excess weight around the belly can limit your mobility and make everyday activities more challenging. So, lose that belly fat!
4. Enhanced self-esteem
Achieving a healthier body composition can boost self-confidence and self-esteem. Feeling better about your appearance and physical abilities can have positive effects on your mental well-being.
Do sit-ups tone your belly?
Sit-ups are often favoured by people who want to lose belly fat or tone their abdominal muscles because these are a popular exercise that specifically targets the muscles in the abdominal area. However, it is essential to understand that sit-ups alone are not the most effective exercises to burn belly fat, says Gahlot. Here’s why sit-ups are a common choice for reducing belly fat:
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1. Muscle toning
Sit-ups primarily work the rectus abdominis muscle, which is the muscle responsible for the “six-pack” appearance. They can help to strengthen and tone these muscles, making them more prominent.
2. Calorie burn
Sit-ups, like other resistance exercises, do burn calories. But the calorie expenditure during sit-ups is relatively low compared to cardiovascular exercises like running or cycling. To lose belly fat, you need to create a calorie deficit, which is best achieved through a combination of diet and cardio exercises.
Best exercises to burn belly fat
There are effective exercises to help you lose belly fat without relying on sit-ups. These exercises focus on full-body movements and core engagement, helping you burn calories and strengthen your abdominal muscles, shares the expert.
• Start by getting into a push-up position with your hands directly under your shoulders and your body in a straight line from head to heels.
• Engage your core muscles and hold this position, keeping your back flat and avoiding sagging or arching.
• Aim to hold the plank for as long as you can, gradually increasing your time as you build strength.
The plank is an isometric exercise that engages your core muscles, helping to strengthen and tone your abs.
2. Mountain climbers
• Begin in a push-up position with your hands under your shoulders and your body straight.
• Alternate bringing your knees toward your chest, as if you’re running in place while in the push-up position.
• Make sure to keep your core tight while maintaining a steady pace.
Mountain climbers are a dynamic exercise that elevates your heart rate, burns calories, and engages your core muscles.
3. Bicycle crunches
• Lie flat on your back with your hands behind your head, elbows pointing out.
• Lift your feet, head and shoulders off the ground.
• As you get your right elbow toward your left knee, extend your right leg.
• Then bring your left elbow toward your right knee as you extend your left leg straight.
• As you continue this pedaling motion, engage your core.
Bicycle crunches target the obliques and rectus abdominis, helping to tone your waistline.
4. Leg raises
• Lie on your back with your arms on your sides and your legs straight.
• Keeping your legs straight, lift them until they are perpendicular to the ground.
• Slowly bring your legs back down without letting them touch the floor.
• Engage your core so that you can maintain control throughout the movement.
Leg raises work the lower abdominal muscles and help to strengthen the lower part of your core.
5. Russian twists
• Sit on the floor with your feet flat and knees bent.
• Slightly lean back while keeping your back straight, and lifting your feet off the floor. Balance on your sit bones while doing so.
• Clasp your hands together right in front of your chest or you can hold a medicine ball or weight.
• Twist your torso to the right, bring your hands beside your right hip.
• Return to the center and twist to your left.
• Continue alternating sides.
Russian twists are good to work the oblique muscles and improve core stability.
Losing belly fat also depends on a healthy diet and overall calorie balance. You can incorporate these exercises into a well-rounded fitness routine, and combine them with a balanced diet to achieve your goals. Also, stay consistent and gradually increase the intensity of your workouts for the best results.