8 Ways to Get Rid of Belly Fat

As you work to slim down, you might notice that the weight comes off many areas of your body, but tends to stick around your midsection. You're not imagining things if your belly fat seems extra stubborn.

Several factors—including hormonal changes, genes, and loss of muscle mass—can affect the distribution of fat in your body, and your belly is one place it tends to always find a home.

Taking diet pills and "spot reducing" exercises are not effective ways to get rid of belly fat, and may even be unsafe. Try these eight strategies instead.

While there are no quick and easy ways to lose belly fat, strategies such as these can help you lose abdominal fat, or prevent it from accumulating in the first place.

1

Create a Calorie Deficit

If you want to target belly fat, combining diet and exercise can help create a calorie deficit. Exercise burns more calories throughout the day and increases metabolism. Adding a healthy, low-calorie eating plan can give you more bang for your buck, helping you lose weight everywhere—including your belly.

This was the conclusion from one study, in which participants either dieted, exercised, or did both. The group that dieted and exercised reduced their body mass the most while also "significantly" reducing their abdominal fat.

Even small changes to your diet can make a difference when trying to lose weight, so don't feel like you have to follow a strict regimen or cut out entire food groups. For instance, you could cook healthy meals at home more often and eat out less.

Not a fan of exercise? You may just not have found something you enjoy. Start simple and easy with walking, swimming, stretching, yoga, or basic strength training. Or think outside the box and consider climbing, boxing, basketball, or jumping rope.

2

Lift Weights

Man and woman lifting weights in front of mirror
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Strength training for the whole body may help you lose abdominal fat. In fact, it might be one of the more effective methods.

One study took 44 women with abdominal obesity and split them into two groups. The first group did endurance exercises for three months. The second combined endurance and strength training. It was the second group that had more lean, fat-free body mass at the end of the study.

If you aren't lifting weights now, there's no better time to start. Follow a simple total-body program two to three times a week to put yourself on the right track to a leaner midsection. Start with a beginner strength workout, work your way up to an intermediate program, and possibly even advanced supersets as you progress further.

3

Add Exercise Time or Intensity

There's no doubt that any amount of exercise is good for you, but the more you do, the more belly fat you can lose. Intensity matters too as research has connected moderate and high-intensity exercise with greater losses of belly fat.

However, many people struggle to get even the minimum amount of exercise suggested by experts (about 30 minutes of moderate activity a day). In addition, not everyone is equipped, either physically or mentally, for intense, high-impact exercise.

If you want to reduce belly fat but aren't ready for hours of intense exercise, start where you are and build from there. It takes time to build the strength, conditioning, and endurance to handle high-intensity exercise. Start with what you can do and add more as you can.

4

Try Interval Training

woman doing sprints for high intensity interval training
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Interval training is great for burning calories and building endurance, but it's also a great way to target abdominal fat. In one study, participants who engaged in high-intensity interval training reduced their visceral belly fat by 17% in just 12 weeks.

That doesn't mean that steady-state exercise isn't important or that you have to do interval training all the time. However, adding intervals to your routine will not only give you better results but help you push your limits and keep your workouts a little more exciting.

Try these ideas for adding intervals to your routine:

  • Add 3 to 5 short bursts of high-intensity exercise. Work as hard as you can for as long as you can (around 30 seconds), then slow down and completely recover before going into the next interval. Mix these into your regular workouts.
  • Create a walk/run interval workout. Alternate one minute of walking with 30 seconds of sprinting or hill climbs. Repeat for 20 or more minutes.
  • Learn how to use exercise equipment settings to your advantage. For example, strategically change the resistance on your elliptical.

If you're doing high-intensity interval training, meaning you're working at levels eight to nine on the perceived exertion scale, keep your sessions to about two a week to avoid overtraining or injury. As you build endurance and strength, you may be able to add more interval training to your workout routine.

5

Include Both Cardio and Strength Training

Barbell Lifting at Strength Training Class
Hero Images/Getty Images

Since cardio exercises and strength training can help, it makes sense that including both in your weekly routine would reduce belly fat even more.

There are a variety of ways to set up a cardio and strength routine, including:

  • Alternate your workouts: Doing cardio and strength training on different days allows you to focus your energy and attention on each workout.
  • Combine workouts: If you don't have as much time, another option is to do cardio and strength training in the same workout.
  • Split routines: Another option is to split your workout and do cardio in the morning and strength training later in the day, or vice versa.

When setting up your routine, you may need to experiment to find a schedule that works for you. Just remember, you don't want to work the same muscles two days in a row, although you can do cardio on consecutive days.

A sample routine may look like this:

6

Do Fewer Ab Exercises (Really)

Abs exercise

Getty Images/ Rapideye/Velta

This advice may seem opposite of what you'd expect, yet studies have found that doing exercises that target your abdominal muscles does not reduce belly fat any more than doing no exercises at all.

The key to losing belly fat, however, is more about creating a calorie deficit. Overall, your body will lose weight in the belly area and elsewhere when you consume fewer calories than you burn through energy expenditure, or in doing daily activities that include exercise and non-exercise movement.

When you do work your abs, treat them like any other muscle group. Challenge them with a few well-chosen exercises, perform two to three sets of 10 to 16 reps, and give rest a day between workouts. Some whole-body exercises work your abs while targeting other muscles, which saves time and makes your workouts more functional.

7

Eat More Whole Grains

Whole grains are a great source of fiber and are proven to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. What makes them even better is they may actually help reduce fat around the belly.

One study of 50 people found that those who consumed whole grain wheat bread for 12 weeks lost belly fat, but this was not the case for those who consumed refined wheat bread for the same amount of time.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that most adults get between 5 and 10 ounces of grains per day, half of which should be whole grains. Below are some examples of healthy whole-grains:

You can also try some of the more unusual whole grains, such as quinoa or wheat berries.

8

Drink in Moderation

Moderate wine consumption may provide some health benefits. One possible benefit is a smaller waist circumference.

One study found that those who drink red wine tend to not only have a reduced waistline, but also lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Together, all of this can reduce your risk of developing metabolic syndrome.

If you don't drink, that doesn't mean you should start. Alcohol adds extra calories to your diet, so cutting it out can help with weight loss. If you do drink, however, this is a good time to assess your habits.

Drinking wine, in moderation, may serve you better than hard liquor, especially if you're watching your weight. Remember to always drink responsibly.

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