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Diet and exercise can take inches off your waist.
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Don't be surprised if those endless crunches and sit-ups you've been doing aren't slimming down your midsection. Super exercising one area in an effort to slim it down doesn't work; only full-body weight loss through diet and exercise can make you lose inches from your midriff. Not only will this improve your appearance, it will also improve your health, because excess fat around your midsection heightens your risk of serious health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease.
Engage in high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, 75 minutes a week. According to the "Journal of Obesity," HIIT is most effective in reducing belly fat compared to other exercise, such as long-duration cardio at a steady pace. To do this type of training, move back and forth between moderate and vigorous cardio intensities. For example, pedal on an elliptical machine or a stationary bike at a moderate pace for two to three minutes, and then burst into a vigorous sprinting pace for 30 seconds to one minute. You can also jump rope for a few minutes at a pace that's easy to maintain, and then burst into a vigorous intensity for a shorter period.
Perform resistance training at least twice a week to preserve and build muscle tissue. Muscle tissue promotes full-body weight loss; because it's metabolically active it boosts your metabolism, making you burn calories even when you're resting. In addition to your abdominals, work your hips, back, chest, legs, arms, and shoulders. Include exercises such as step-ups, pull-ups, bench presses, lunges, lat pull-downs, pushups, squats, and deadlifts. Perform eight to 12 reps and two to three sets per exercise. Also, schedule strength training on nonconsecutive days so your muscles have enough time to recover between workouts.
Change your diet and eating habits to reduce your caloric intake. Practice portion control and limit empty calories from refined-grain pasta, sugary soda, and white bread. Emphasize foods from the basic food groups, including veggies, whole fruits, reduced-fat dairy, lean protein, and whole grains. Compare food labels so you can make healthy, low-calorie choices.
Reduce stress in your life -- high stress levels trigger the release of cortisol in your body. Experts at the University of New Mexico state that cortisol awakens cravings for fattening foods, and it can also relocate fat from other parts of your body to deep in your abdomen. Practice meditation and deep breathing to combat stress -- yoga is also effective and calming. Get between seven to nine hours of sleep.
Perform exercises to strengthen and tone your abdominals so that when your body fat reduces, you'll have a well-defined tummy. Work your abs in all planes of motion. For instance, do side planks and bicycle crunches for your obliques, basic crunches and front planks for your rectus abdominis, and reverse crunches for your lower abs. Perform one to three sets, and 10 to 25 repetitions per exercise. Make abdominal-strengthening exercises part of your strength-training routine, on at least two nonconsecutive days of the week.
Aim for weight loss at a gradual rate of one to two pounds a week, as recommended by MayoClinic.org. Accumulate a deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories a day to achieve this. Avoid losing weight faster, because instead of fat, you might end up losing water weight and muscle tissue.
Consult your doctor before making dietary changes or beginning to exercise, especially if you have an injury or unhealthy condition, or you have been inactive.