HOW BAD IS BELLY FAT?
by ACE Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine Institute
Belly fat not only impacts appearance, it can affect your whole body. Losing belly fat will help clothes fit better, but more importantly, it will improve overall health. Belly fat can potentially lead to a variety of health issues such as Type II diabetes, heart disease, and even some types of cancer. It is in everyone's best interest to stay fit and thin and lose the excess body fat asap.
Belly fat is excess abdominal fat surrounding the organs in your stomach. There are three types of fat: triglycerides (the fat that circulates in your blood), subcutaneous fat (the layer directly below the skin's surface) and visceral fat (dangerous belly fat). Visceral fat is located beneath the muscles in your stomach and surrounds all of the organs. Visceral fat produces hormones and chemicals that can be extremely harmful to the human body. Having too much visceral fat can be a sign of negative things to come for the individual that is lugging around a "beer gut."
Wondering if you have too much belly fat?
There is a simple way to determine if you are possibly at risk of developing health issues. Take a measuring tape and wrap it around your bare stomach, directly above your hip bones. The tape should be snug but not too tight. For women, a measurement of 35 inches or more indicates an unhealthy amount of belly fat. For men, a measurement of 40 inches or more indicates an unhealthy measure.
Diet: Losing weight and belly fat will occur if your diet is low in carbohydrates and fats. Surprisingly the studies indicate that eating a diet that has more fat in it compared to carbohydrates is more effective for losing belly fat. Don't diet!! Decide that you are changing your weekly eating plan and don't be afraid to reward yourself if you are successful and can "stick to" the plan. Some studies suggest adding more fiber to your diet to help reduce the production of visceral fat. Staying away from processed and fast foods is a must!
Exercise: You should consult with your doctor prior to beginning an exercise routine to determine if your "baseline health is adequate for you to perform a basic exercise program. Vigorous exercise is ideal, but doing anything is better than sitting on your butt all day and being a "couch potato". Your goal should be to perform moderate exercise (approximately 60-65% of your max heart rate) 5x per week for 30 minutes at a minimum. This level of intensity targets fat burning and is more effective if the duration of the exercise routine exceeds 30 minutes. Studies indicate that getting rid of visceral fat is better achieved with a more aggressive exercise routine but you will "burn" more visceral fat.
Lifting weights and keep moving: Lifting weights can help to develop more muscle mass or "lean body mass" and this will help to increase your metabolism. Your body weight might not change a great deal if you develop more muscle and lose fat because muscle weighs more than fat. Don't use a scale but consider how your clothes fit instead. If you keep moving your activity increased activity level will help to "burn" more calories. Some suggestions are walking stairs, park further away from the entrance door, and perform home chores that require you to be active (walk to cut the lawn instead of using a riding lawnmower).
Reduce stress: Everyone has stress in their lives. If stress levels are too high for too long, the immune system is compromised. All too often bad eating choices accompany stressful days/situations. Exercise is the best way to combat stress but you can attempt to meditate or relax with family and friends. Try to hang out with people that live "healthy" lives because it will make your choice of living that way more appealing.
Everyone has belly fat. The goal has to be to control the amount of belly fat (more specifically visceral fat) in our mid-sections because an excess can lead to a lot of severe medical conditions that will reduce the quality of your life or worse.
Michael A Ercole, MSMSPT, CSCS
Elite Fitness, 10123 Colvin Run Rd, Great Falls, VA 22066
ACE Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine Institute
Alexandria, Arlington/Clarendon, Falls Church/Merrifield, Fairfax/ Fair Oaks, Herndon/Reston, Leesburg/Lansdowne, Tysons/Vienna