Belly Rolls Are Normal

What You Need to Know About Abdominal Fat

woman with stomach rolls sitting down

Philip and Karen Smith / Getty Images

It's not uncommon for people to have fat around their belly, especially when sitting down. For some, this can be bothersome. While it isn't possible to target one specific area for fat loss, there are things you can do to reduce abdominal fat and make it less noticeable.

Belly Rolls Are Normal

Having a few folds of abdominal fat around your belly is completely normal. In fact, fat is essential to health. Expecting to have a completely flat stomach after achieving a specific weight or fitness goal is unrealistic.

If reducing the appearance of this fat is important to you, following a specific nutrition plan and/or increasing your fitness are two ways to approach your goal.

What Causes Abdominal Fat?

Fat around the belly is common. When you stand up tall, your torso is elongated. The skin and tissue in your midsection are spread over a greater surface area. When you sit down, your torso shortens. The skin and flesh are now compacted into a smaller space. The result is that you develop a few fleshy folds.

Everyone, including thin people, gets excess fat around their belly button when their spine curves and midsection is compressed.

There are a few factors that might cause some people to develop abdominal fat more so than others.

  • Excess body fat: If your body fat percentage is higher, some of that excess fat is likely sitting around your middle, resulting in rolls that appear when standing or sitting.
  • Genetics: Research has found that storing excess fat in the abdominal area is up to 60% genetic. This study adds that your genes can also determine if the excess fat sits deeper inside your midsection (visceral fat) or if the fat stays closer to the skin (subcutaneous fat).
  • Poor posture: Just as belly fat is more apparent when sitting versus standing due to a shortened torso, the same is true if you have poor posture. Leaning forward or slouching can both cause bigger or more prominent folds of skin.

Health Risks of Abdominal Fat

Having some belly fat is necessary to protect your organs. It is also essential in maintaining the body's functions and nutrition. But having too much carries risks. People who carry excess fat in the waist area are at higher risk for:

  • Glucose intolerance
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Insulin resistance

Are you doomed to have health problems if you have abdominal fat? Of course not. However it is important to examine your individual health to analyze how your genetics combined with risk factors contribute to your risk for disease.

How to Measure Visceral Fat

Given the lack of specific determinants of how much fat is too much, it's difficult but important to consider whether the amount of abdominal fat you carry increases your risk of disease. There are two different measurement methods that can each easily be performed at home. (Both tests should be performed while standing.)

Waist Circumference

This is a measurement taken around the abdomen at the level of the umbilicus (belly button). You'll need a flexible tape measure to perform this test. Once you take your waist circumference measurements, check what your results mean for you.

Hip-Waist Ratio

You can also compare your waist measurement to your hip measurement to get an estimate of your health risks. You'll need a flexible tape measure for this test, and you may want to use a calculator as well.

Can You Get Rid of Abdominal Fat?

If your home tests suggest that you carry too much belly fat, you should see a healthcare professional, who can talk to you about how your health history affects your risk for disease.

Keep in mind that exercise alone is not likely to make a big difference in your belly fat. Exercise helps your body to burn more calories all day long. The extra calories you burn might help you reach the calorie deficit needed for weight loss, but you can't spot reduce.

You can't do sit-ups and hope that only your waistline will get smaller.

How to Reduce Abdominal Fat

If you decide to slim down in order to reduce your abdominal fat, there are several things you can do. For the best results, do each of these in moderation to approach the issue from several angles.

Calorie Controlled Diet

A consistent, calorie-controlled, balanced diet for weight loss is a smart way to reduce your waistline. While you can't control where you will lose weight, if you lose weight, you are likely to see positive changes in your upper and lower stomach fat.

Cardio Exercise

You can also start a cardio exercise program. There are cardio workouts suitable for all fitness levels, allowing you to choose the one that best fits your situation and needs. Walking is an excellent way to start.

Strength Training

The more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns—even while at rest. Engage in a high-intensity weight training workout at least once a week to kick your belly fat burning potential up a notch.

Stretching

One way that stretching helps you reduce your abdominal fat is by helping your body get rid of stress. Since stress can lead to emotional eating, reducing this feeling enables you to make better food choices. Make total body stretches part of your regular fitness routine.

Core Training

Even though you can't spot reduce belly fat, developing a stronger core serves two purposes. One, it builds muscle, which increases your daily calorie burn. Two, a strong core contributes to a healthier posture and standing and sitting upright reduces the appearance of fat.

Adequate Sleep

Studies suggest a relationship between sleep restriction and decreased fat loss. In one study, researchers found that one hour of sleep restriction was linked to a reduced percentage of fat loss even though the amount of weight loss was the same when compared to those with no sleep restriction. The Sleep Foundation recommends that adults receive 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night.

If you put together a balanced program of cardiovascular exercise and strength training—like with the Triple Threat Belly Fat Workout— and throw in some stretching too, you are likely to see improvement in the way your body looks and feels.

A Word From Verywell

A program of core training (including abdominal exercises to tone the entire torso region) will help to improve your posture and burn calories. But sit-ups alone, for example, are not enough to create noticeable weight loss. A combined and sustained program of diet, exercise, sleep, and stress management is the best program to achieve your fitness and health goals.

7 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Malia Frey
 Malia Frey is a weight loss expert, certified health coach, weight management specialist, personal trainer​, and fitness nutrition specialist.