What is the Best Exercise to Lose Belly Fat?
Best exercise to lose belly fat isn’t crunches, sit-ups, planks or any other isometric exercise which works the abdominal muscles. No, the best exercise to lose belly fat is cardio, pure and simple. Whether it’s jogging, cycling, cross-country skiing or aerobics, any form of cardio that can get your heart rate to 80% of its maximum will do.
A recent study by researchers at Duke University published in the August 2011 American Journal of Physiology compared the benefits of weight training and cardio in combating belly fat — specifically visceral fat lodged around your internal organs which is recognized as a risk factor for diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer. The 8-month long study consisted of 198 overweight adults with sedentary lifestyles.
Cardio is Better Than Weight Training at Reducing Visceral Fat
The study measured the effect of weight training, jogging, and a combination of the two on reducing visceral fat in the subjects. It found that the subjects who engaged in cardio (12 miles per week at 80% maximum heart rate) burned 67 percent more calories than the subjects who engaged in weight training alone. The cardio subjects also significantly reduced their visceral fat levels and improved their insulin resistance, liver enzymes and triglyceride levels. The weight-training-only subjects did not receive these benefits.
Weight Training Provides Other Benefits
The researchers were not critical of weight training, noting that weight training provides the benefit of developing lean muscle, whereas cardio does not. However, if your goal is pure fat loss, cardio shines over weight training.
Obviously, I recommend a combination of weight training and cardio for optimal long term fat loss. While cardio produces more immediate and efficient benefits if you’re looking to lose belly fat, weight training adds more lean body mass, which causes you to burn more calories even while inactive (such as while you sleep). Think of cardio as immediate payment for a job and weight training as more of a long term investment that will provide you passive income when you’re not working (of course, you will lose muscle mass if you stop weight training, but it will take a while).
If you absolutely had to choose between cardio and weight training, cardio is clearly the better choice for losing belly fat. As this new study shows, this is true not only for aesthetically unpleasing subcutaneous belly fat, but also the more hidden and dangerous visceral fat.
The Bottom Line For Belly Fat Warriors
For those of us focused on losing belly fat, our exercise priorities are now clear: cardio always comes first. Weight training is a great addition, but if time is an obstacle, it should be sacrificed for cardio.
Of course, changing your eating habits should come first. If your plan is just to add cardio and hang on to your lousy diet of fried cheese and ice cream, you may as well go jogging with a boat anchor tied around your waist, since it appears you like to work against yourself.