Belly fat—aka visceral fat, that type of fat that accumulates around the midsection, nestled near vital organs like the liver and intestines—isn't just unsightly; it's dangerous, associated with a number of serious health conditions. Belly fat can seem easier to acquire, and harder to lose, after age 60, a time when it's even more risky, as it can prevent the body from fighting back against the heightened incidence of age-related disease. The good news: If you add some simple habits to your routine, you can slash belly fat, no matter what your age. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Do This 5-Minute Exercise
To blast belly fat, reach for some weights. A 2021 review of studies found that resistance training effectively reduces visceral fat in healthy adults. And it doesn't take a lot of time: According to a study published in The Korean Journal of Sports Medicine, overweight people who did stair-climbing intervals twice a day for five minutes without stopping lost an average of 7.3 pounds of body weight and 5.5 pounds of body fat in three weeks. (Other studies have found that increasing your exercise to 60 minutes a day can burn up to 30% of your belly fat over three months.)
Stop Drinking Your Calories
Experts say that liquid calories are a major contributor to visceral fat. Sodas, juices, nut milks, energy drinks—anything which is sugar-sweetened, even the drinks you think are healthy, can pack on fat around your middle. Liquid sugar seems to accelerate the development of belly fat "by being quickly absorbed, spiking blood sugar, spiking insulin," says Dr. Mark Hyman, a functional medicine physician with the Cleveland Clinic. " If you can do a single thing to dramatically improve your health, get rid of liquid sugar calories."
Stop Eating Refined Grains
Simple carbs—like those found in highly processed foods and refined grains—are even worse when it comes to production of belly fat. "When you raise your blood sugar, you raise insulin. You raise insulin, you sweep all the fuel out of your bloodstream and throw it into your belly-fat cells," says Hyman. Your move: Swap refined grains and processed foods for a diet rich in whole foods like fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and lean proteins.
Eat Less Sugar
Reduce your consumption of sugary foods, along with sugary drinks, and you'll likely see belly fat melt away. A 2020 study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology found that eating too much sugar is associated with larger fat deposits around the heart and in the abdomen. "When we consume too much sugar, the excess is converted to fat and stored," said the study's lead author. "This fat tissue located around the heart and in the abdomen releases chemicals into the body which can be harmful to health. Our results support limiting added sugar intake."
Go to Bed at This Time
In a multinational study of more than 137,000 people published last June in JAMA Network Open, researchers found that people who went to bed after 10pm had a 20% higher risk of being obese or having a large waistline. In people who regularly hit the hay between 2 and 6am, the risk was almost double. Scientists think late bedtimes might increase the production of stress hormones, which tell belly fat to hang around.
And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.