How can I lose those extra inches that have crept on around my stomach?
It’s called ‘middle aged spread’ for a reason as we seem to hit a certain age and boom there it is!! As we get older a decline in hormones slows the metabolism meaning that we are burning less energy and storing more fat. A woman can add 1-2lb of fat onto her middle every year between the ages of 35 and 55. If we add that up that’s an extra 20-40lb or 1 st 6lb – 2st 12lb! (Scary!!)
There are two types of fat that gather around our middles. One is visceral fat which is very unhealthy as it is deep in the abdomen and surrounds major organs. It is tightly packed around the organs, pushing the abdominal wall out. This type of fat can lead to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Research has shown that the stress hormone, cortisol, can greatly increase visceral fat being stored.
The second type of fat is subcutaneous fat which is the fat that is soft and squishy that you can grab in your hands! Subcutaneous fat is harmless and much better for our bodies than visceral fat. It protects bones and muscles and stores energy. It’s also a network for nerves and blood vessels between the skin and muscles. The amount of subcutaneous fat that a person has depends greatly on diet and lifestyle. If you have an unhealthy diet and are not very active, then you will have a greater amount of subcutaneous fat than someone who eats healthily and is very active.
So, now that we know what it is and why we have it, how do we get rid of it?
Unfortunately, you can’t spot reduce fat from your belly, but there are lots of changes that you can make to your lifestyle to help shift this fat, as well as helping you to be fitter, stronger and feel healthier and happier. You need to incorporate as much as you can of the following for optimum results:
Resistance exercise is excellent as this will help to build muscle (don’t worry, you won’t end up looking like Popeye!) and the more muscle that you have, the more calories you will burn, even after you’ve finished exercising. It’s extremely important to do this type of exercise as we get older to keep our muscles strong.
Cardio – Add in some cardio such as running, bike riding or swimming, anything which increases your heart rate and makes you breathe faster. This will burn calories but to increase the rate at which you lose weight, combine cardio exercise with resistance training.
Keep moving – Try not to sit for too long. Remember, standing burns between 100-200 calories an hour whereas sitting only burns between 60-130. These extra calories add up quickly! Take every opportunity that you can to move, whether that’s jogging or doing squats while the kettle boils, taking the stairs instead of the lift, parking further away from the shop or getting off the bus one or two stops earlier. All these little changes add up very quickly, helping you to get that one step closer to your goals.
Try not to get too stressed – the stress hormone, cortisol has been linked with an increase in visceral fat storage. Life can be generally stressful with work, children, cooking, shopping, looking after elderly parents and everything else that has to be done but it is important to try to reduce this as much as possible. As women we don’t tend to ask for much help, battling through everything that needs doing and exhausting ourselves in the process. We need to learn to delegate more, let your partner and kids help with certain chores. Make time for yourself whether that’s having a long soak with a book, a day at the spa, a Yoga class or your 30 minutes ‘me time’ with us at W Fitness! It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it’s something that you enjoy that’s just for you! Try to get good quality sleep every night as sleepless nights can play havoc with your weight loss. Turn off any screens such as the tv, Ipad or mobile phone at least an hour before bed and try a relaxing bath, a cup of chamomile tea or listen to some meditation before you fall asleep.
Eat healthily – Watch your calorie intake. Make a conscious effort to make meals from scratch using fresh ingredients. Try to reduce sugar to an absolute minimum as this is just empty calories, and include wholegrains, lentils, fresh vegetables and lean meat. Watch your alcohol consumption too as it’s so easy to drink your calories without realising how many you’re having. Batch cook meals and freeze so that you always have a healthy meal to hand when you’re short on time and are tempted to grab a takeaway. Source healthy snacks that you can keep in the fridge for when you get the nibbles. Don’t keep chocolate, crisps, cake and biscuits in the house – you can’t eat what isn’t there!
Belly Busting Exercises
So, we covered what you can do in terms of small changes to your lifestyle but here are our favourite exercises that will help you to get rid of that belly fat:
- W Fitness Circuit – this is a workout combination of different exercises using resistance and cardio that work together to burn calories and build muscle (tone) and you will continue to burn calories for up to 24 hours after finishing the circuit. This will help with full body toning and weight loss.
- Mountain Climbers – this is a full body workout that will increase your heartrate, burn calories and work your legs, core, shoulders and arms. Start in a press-up position and bring your legs into your chest, alternately as fast as you can. This is a combination of strength and cardio as holding your own body weight builds strength whilst moving your legs fast works towards your cardio. Make sure to contract your core.
- Cycling – this is an excellent cardio exercise and can be done on an exercise bike inside. You can lose up to 300 calories in half an hour depending on your weight and the setting that you have it on. You can increase speed and inclination as it gets easier and you can also change the speed and inclination within your workout to turn it into a HIIT workout.
- Lunge with overhead dumbbell press – Hold a pair of light dumbbells (increase this when the exercise becomes easy) over your head so that your palms are facing each other. Step forward into a lunge, making sure that your back knee is near the floor but not touching it. Step back to the start and repeat with the other leg. Alternate legs. This exercise gives your core a good workout as well as your glutes.
- Burpees – Hannah’s favourite lol! – another great full body exercise that will get your heart rate up and cause you to breathe faster. Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Squat down and reach your hands to the floor on the outside of your feet and jump your legs back into plank position. Jump your legs back in, stand and keeping the weight in your heels, jump up into the air, explosively, raising your hands above your head. Land and repeat.
- Russian Twist – this is a great exercise which works the abs and obliques meaning that your core is getting a great workout. Sit with your legs bent, either on the floor or crossed at the ankles and raised off the floor. Lean back until you feel your abs engage. This can be done without a weight, or you can hold a dumbbell or medicine ball in both hands. Twist your upper body from side to side as you move the weight from one side to the other.
- Deadlifts – these are great for helping to shift that extra fat around the middle. They work the core, abs, back and legs and are great for toning as well as burning calories. Keep your feet shoulder width apart and start with the barbell in your hands. Bend forwards from the hips, bending your knees slightly and making sure to keep your back straight, as you lower the barbell to the floor whilst keeping it close to your body. Squeeze your glutes as you return to the starting position.
- Plank – when done properly, making sure that your body is in a straight line and not dipping or raising your hips, this is a great exercise that uses many muscles at once, strengthening your core and burning calories. Start in a straight line resting on your forearms and on your toes (with straight legs). Squeeze your core tightly and hold for 20 seconds, increasing this by a few seconds each time it starts to feel easy. Once you have mastered this, there are many plank variations that you can try, such as plank with straight arms, side plank, reverse plank and one arm plank.
So, to get the best results when wanting to lose belly fat, make sure you do a combination of the above exercises as well as following the tips above and see your belly disappear! 😊
Caroline & Hannah xx