Losing That Belly Fat
Anytime after 30, hopefully as late as 40 or 45, some of that muscle we were so proud of begins to be replaced with fat. Where that fat is most likely to accumulate is around our middles. Even if we are the same weight we were 10 years earlier, gradually we begin to notice the development of a “spare tire” or “love handles;” namely, just plain “belly fat.” When we were younger, our bodies produced hormones: estrogen in women, testosterone in men. These hormones helped regulate the “flow” of fat, spreading it to our arms, legs, and hips. As we age, those hormones are no longer being produced, and fat starts to accumulate more deeply inside our bodies, most notably around our middles. The purpose of body fat is that it helps to regulate our body’s temperature and it also provides shock absorption for our bones and organs, and if we were forced to fast for a long period of time, it would supply food to maintain our bodily functions. The layer of fat closest to our skin is called subcutaneous fat. It poses no health threat, unless we are obese. The fat that resides deeper in our bodies is called visceral fat, and it can harm us. This visceral fat, later in life, tends to collect around our tummies, and creates the spare tire effect. It can interfere with liver function, and the processing of cholesterol and insulin, and is associated with an increased risk for diabetes, heart disease, and even some forms of cancer.
Holly St. Lifer, a health and fitness writer, wrote an article titled “How to Lose Your Spare Tire,” which appeared in the July/August 2007 edition of the AARP magazine. She gives us some useful suggestions about how to better keep our youthful figures, and especially how to prevent the build-up of excessive belly fat.
It’s no surprise that we need to first eliminate what Ms St. Lifer calls the “five C’s: candy, cookies, cake, cola, and chips.” She also suggests limiting fried foods to once a month, and warns against heavy indulgence of any snack foods like chips, crackers and processed breads.
That’s the easy part of how to avoid a spare tire. The going gets rougher from there. Regular, at least moderate, exercise needs to play a big role in our daily schedules. Strength training and aerobic exercise are especially effective to stem the growth of belly fat.
Strength training can work all your major muscle groups: arms, shoulders, chest, abs, back and legs. Researchers found that it reduced belly fat by 10 to 15 percent in two groups of 50 to 70 year olds, even when there was no weight loss. Increase the length of your workout slowly. If you increase the weight you are working with more than 5 to 10 percent every couple of weeks you will risk undue strain on your muscles, tendons and ligaments.
If you are trying to not only lose weight, but to also lose more fat than you would through just through dieting, aerobic exercise can be the solution. St. Lifer’s article stated that “research from the University of Arkansas found that study participants who did 90 minutes of moderate exercise, five days a week, lost twice the amount of visceral fat as those who just dieted.” A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2003 found that participants who moderately exercised 90 minutes a day, five days a week lost 3 to 6 percent of their belly fat, while those who only dieted lost just half that amount.
Exercise works, and the more you exercise, the more it works. You might start at 30 minutes a day, or 30 minutes at least several times a week. Work up until you can comfortably exercise for an hour, three to five times a week. If all that is too much for you, start by walking a half hour a day, every day. Remember, we have to start somewhere and you are only in competition with yourself.