Let's talk about belly fat. Everyone has some belly fat which is right under your skin. Deeper belly fat is called visceral fat which is deeper inside, around your heart, lungs, liver and other organs. This kind of fat can adversely affect your health by producing stress hormones and inflammation that affect the body's production of insulin. Some visceral fat is needed to provide cushioning around your organs but too much can also contribute to high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, dementia and certain cancers. When too much weight is gained, the fat storage areas get full and the fat is deposited into the organs and around the heart. A simple, low cost way to determine how much visceral fat you have can be as easy as wrapping a tape measure around your waist at your belly button to check your girth. Measure while standing up and make sure the tape measure is level. You want your waist size to be less than 35 inches if you are a woman and less than 40 inches if you are a man.

Now for the good news!

Being Active Burns Fat - Visceral fat likes inactivity so the key is to be active, no matter what size you are. Aerobic exercise – anything that gets your heartrate up will help you to lose belly fat. Walking, running, biking, swimming, cardio classes and cardio machines are all good. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise at least 3 – 5 times per week. Keep in mind that spot reduction (losing fat in one spot) is not possible so doing only abdominal exercises will not make you lose fat from the belly. They will, however, keep your core strong and tighten your abdominals. Studies have shown that exercise prevented people from re-gaining abdominal fat after weight loss.

Healthy eating – I will call this a lifestyle change rather than a diet, and it is critical to losing belly fat. Studies have shown that excess sugar increases belly fat and liver fat, which can lead to insulin resistance and other metabolic problems. Start reading labels on food to educate yourself on unhealthy refined sugar. Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages including high-sugar sports drinks is also harmful. Consuming whole fruit (soluble fiber) has many health benefits giving you plenty of fiber, which is also found in many vegetables and legumes.

Getting enough sleep can be a big part of controlling belly fat. So can managing stress, so be sure to include relaxation and meditation in your life.

So, there is no "magic pill" to take for reduction of belly fat, though you will see plenty advertised. Exercise and self-control will give the most immediate results and be the safest.

In Good Health,

Shelley Rubinstein, Fitness Director for PBNSG

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