Do ab exercises burn belly fat? No. Abdominal exercises do not directly burn body fat. For a long time in the fitness community, “spot reduction” or whether you can target your fat loss to only specific areas has been debated.
Whether you’re on a weight loss journey or a mission to lower your body mass index (BMI), you’ve probably given some thought to trying to lose belly fat.
Most scientific evidence supports the idea that spot reduction is a myth. More commonly, to lose body fat from a specific area, it’s best to focus on overall fat loss.
But ab exercises DO come with a variety of benefits that are worthwhile. And once you’ve lost the belly fat, the abs you’ve built underneath will show through, feel stronger, and help power your workouts.
Let’s unpack some more facts surrounding belly fat. Find out whether it’s safe to work your abdominal muscles if you have a lot of fat to lose.
What are the Risks of Too Much Belly Fat?
First off, what do we mean when we say “belly fat”? There are two types of fat around your belly:
This is the type of fat you can see and grab on your belly. Think of the dreaded “beer gut,” “dad bod”, or “love handles.” Although you may not like the appearance of this type of fat, the greater danger lies in the other type of belly fat. This usually makes up 90% of someone’s belly fat.
Distributed between the internal organs inside the torso, visceral fat lies deeper inside the belly cavity. Visceral fat sits under your layer of subcutaneous fat.
It’s spread out between organs like your liver and small and large intestines. Here is where most of your health problems usually occur. Excessive visceral fat has been linked to:
- Cardiovascular problems
- Breast cancer
- Colorectal cancer
These are just a few of the conditions that may be connected to too much visceral fat on your belly.
Whether subcutaneous or visceral, abdominal fat is one of the most dangerous types of excess fat you can hold on your body. Why? Belly fat has been associated with:
Too much fat at your waist, particularly if you have an “apple-shaped” body can create issues for your metabolic health. A Johns Hopkins University Medicine study found that a waist size of more than 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women put people with excess belly fat at the highest risk for metabolic issues.
According to the American Heart Association, visceral abdominal fat is a “clear health hazard” and creates poor cardiovascular outcomes. Abdominal fat can lead to conditions like non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. This condition raises your potential for cardiovascular health problems.
Should I Work Out My Abs if I Have Belly Fat?
Is it a good idea for you to target your abs if you have belly fat? Workouts that target the core and abs can help reduce belly fat. Adding them to your routine is a good way to achieve your fitness goals.
That being said, just doing abdominal workouts isn’t enough to “burn” all the fat off your belly.
Working out your abs strengthens the abdominal muscles, but doesn’t directly decrease your body fat percentage. To actually reduce body fat, you’ll also need to incorporate cardio exercises and change up your diet.
Getting rid of both subcutaneous and visceral belly fat usually requires a good level of cardiovascular activity and eating in a caloric deficit. Always remember: abs are made in the kitchen. It’s a good idea to take stock of how your food is fuelling your body if you want to have a better abdominal definition.
Speak with a registered dietitian or doctor if you’re making significant changes in your diet to reduce belly fat.
What Are the Best Exercises for Belly Fat?
Knowing the risks, how do you get rid of stubborn belly fat? A good approach is usually combining cardio AND ab exercises.
This way, you burn the excess fat off your body overall and target muscle growth in your abdominal area. Once you become leaner, your ab muscles will be more prominent if you target them in training for a more sculpted look.
Here are a few key exercises to target belly fat:
Cardio and Aerobics
Full-body fat burners like cardio are one of the best ways to reduce body fat overall. You can’t spot reduce, however, cardio helps drop body fat percentage overall.
Less fat on your body in total helps the ab muscles you build be more visible, feel stronger, and perform better in workouts.
Cardio exercises can include:
Your abs do more than just look good when you have a 6-pack. They help you breathe, protect the internal organs, and improve your stability and balance. What are some abdominal exercises for belly fat?
Ab-focused moves like:
- Bicycle crunches
- Leg lifts
- Mountain climbers
These can all help you build a stronger core. Although you should try and incorporate ab workouts if you have belly fat, you won’t necessarily shred your fat like you might with cardiovascular workouts, these ab-building moves can still help generate heat that helps your metabolism burn calories. This will help lead you towards a leaner body.
Should you work out your abs with belly fat? Answer: yes! Although spot reduction doesn’t work, there’s no reason you can’t work out your abs. Unless you’re suffering from an injury to that region, abdominal exercises are some of the best you can do to attain a stronger core.
Core strength helps you with everyday actions that you may not even think about! Having strong abdominals helps improve your breathing. It’s also great for stability and balance.
Doing both ab and cardio workouts, regardless of belly fat amount, can boost your fitness level.
People with belly fat or health issues should do ab exercises to improve their health and lose weight.
Before changing your diet or exercise routine to focus on belly fat, it’s smart to talk to a doctor first.
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