Whether you have a beer belly or just an inch more belly fat than you’d like, workouts to lose belly fat can help.
More than helping you achieve toned abs, these workouts can reduce your risk of disease and strengthen your core.
A strong core makes walking, running, training, and everyday movements easier. It may also reduce the risk of lower extremity injuries.
Simply put, if you enjoy running, working your abs is one of the best forms of exercise you can do.
Read on to discover what exercises burn belly fat and how to do them correctly. We’ll also answer a question many people new to running have on their mind – does running help lose belly fat?
But first, let’s review why too much belly fat is dangerous and why diet is important to reduce it.
In This Article:
Health Risks Linked to Excess Belly Fat
Belly fat can be subcutaneous (under the skin) and visceral (surrounding internal organs). The latter is the more dangerous.
Belly fat isn’t just unsightly, it triggers a cascade of metabolic disturbances that can lead to serious health risks.
Belly fat or visceral obesity has been linked to higher free fatty acid availability and more triglycerides in the blood. It’s also responsible for the release of more proinflammatory cytokines, liver insulin resistance, and reduced good HDL cholesterol.
These negative effects of visceral fat increase the risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.
Having belly fat makes you more susceptible to developing serious conditions like heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. It also increases the risk of colon cancer and breast cancer and has even been linked to asthma.
To make matters worse, research indicates that visceral fat significantly increases mortality risk in women.
The Science of Fat Loss
You may have heard that abs are made in the kitchen. To some extent, it’s true. It’s very difficult to lose belly fat and get defined abs if you overindulge in carbs and fats.
However, a review of 117 studies found that exercise decreases visceral adiposity more than diet.
Dieting, meanwhile, can reduce overall weight better than exercise. For best results and to maintain overall health, it’s best to combine exercise with a healthy diet.
When you engage in intense physical activity, your body uses glycogen, a form of glucose, to fuel your muscles. Glycogen gets stored in your liver and muscles.
It’s after around 30–60 minutes of aerobic exercise that your body starts burning fat for energy. Consuming fewer calories than you burn through daily activity helps promote weight loss.
But when it comes to losing belly fat, things are a bit more complicated than that.
Diet is important
Sugary foods, low-protein high-carb diets, trans fats, saturated fats, and alcohol can all contribute to belly fat. Stress, lack of exercise, smoking, and poor sleep are other important contributing factors. Belly fat also has a strong genetic component.
Avoiding sugar, refined carbs, and fatty foods could help reduce belly fat. Reducing alcohol consumption may also help. Foods you should eat more of include fruits, vegetables, complex carbs like whole grains, and lean proteins.
In addition to losing belly fat through skipping unhealthy foods, eating right can help you get more defined abs.
Consuming 8–10g of a high-carb diet per kilogram of body weight along with protein before resistance training increases muscle growth.
Meanwhile, taking in similar amounts of carbs (within 30 minutes) and protein (within 3 hours) after exercise facilitates recovery.
During strenuous exercise such as a long-distance run, you may also want to take in carbs and protein mid-run. This helps increase endurance performance and offsets muscle damage.
Best Exercises to Help With Belly Fat That You Can Try at Home
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, significant weight loss occurs if you engage in over 250 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every week.
This amount of physical activity also helps support weight loss. Less physical activity leads only to modest weight loss.
In other words, to see results, you want to make sure you get enough exercise during the week. This could mean dividing your workout plan into 5 sessions of 50 minutes each or shorter, more frequent sessions.
If you’re looking for the most effective exercise for a flat tummy in 7 days, you won’t find it in this list. It’s unrealistic to expect to achieve a flat tummy in a week.
So, what exercise burns the most belly fat? And does running burn fat effectively? Find out below and discover the best workouts to lose belly fat.
Aerobic or cardio exercises
A review of 15 scientific studies found that of all forms of training, moderate to high-intensity aerobic training is the most likely to reduce visceral fat in overweight people.
Aerobic exercise refers to workouts that improve blood flow and oxygen delivery to muscles. Cardio exercises specifically focus on boosting heart health.
Add moderate to intense aerobic or cardio exercises to your weekly training plan. Combine different types of aerobic exercises for the best results. Some ideas:
- Cycle. Cycle at a moderate intensity (10–12 miles per hour pace) for 15 minutes, then take a 5-minute break. Repeat once or twice for a total of up to 45 minutes of actual cycling time.
- Swim. After warming up, swim freestyle at a moderate pace for 10 minutes. Rest and repeat up to 2 times for a total of 30 minutes.
- Row. Do a 20-minute rowing workout using a home rowing machine. Warm up with 5 minutes of basic rowing drills at a rate of 18–20 strokes per minute (SPM). Take a break for 1 minute and then row for 10 minutes at 22 SPM. Cool down with 5 minutes of easy rowing strokes and light stretches.
Tip: Don’t like training alone? You can also try group fitness classes.
High-intensity interval training, or HIIT for short, is another great exercise for burning belly fat. During HIIT, you focus on short bursts of intense exercise.
HIIT is a powerful and effective way to train. What’s more, research shows that HIIT creates an afterburn effect that enhances calorie burning throughout the day.
The best time to exercise to lose belly fat with HIIT is in the morning or early in the day.
1. Warm up with a 5-minute moderate-intensity run.
2. Do 20 pushups.
3. Do 50 bodyweight squats.
4. Do 50 weighted crunches.
5. Do 20 alternating plyometric lunges.
6. Rest for 1 minute.
7. Run for 5 minutes at a moderate to intense pace.
8. Do a plank for 1 minute.
9. Do 20 jump squats.
10. Do 50 bicycle crunches.
11. Do walking lunges for 1 minute.
12. Rest for 1 minute.
13. Run for 5 minutes striving to beat your previous run time.
14. Repeat all of the above 2–3 times.
Strength training with weights can decrease fat, increase lean weight, and speed up metabolism.
When your body is at rest, your muscles burn more calories than fatty tissue. Having a higher ratio between muscle and fat can help you tone your abs.
Put another way, lifting weights can, over time, contribute to the loss of belly fat.
So it’s a good idea to integrate strength training into your workouts even if these exercises don’t target your abdominal muscles directly.
Here’s an example of a strength training routine with dumbbells you can try:
1. Warm up with dynamic stretches.
2. Do goblet squats x 12 reps. Hold one dumbbell up to your chest and lower yourself into a squat. Make sure to press your hips back. Return back up to complete a rep.
3. Follow up with Romanian deadlifts x 12 reps. Hold a dumbbell in each hand before your hips. Lower the dumbbells to the middle of your shins and press your hips back. Return to the starting position to complete a rep.
4. Do a plank dumbbell drag x12 reps with each hand. Bring one dumbbell to the side of your body and get into a high plank position. Grab the dumbbell with your opposite hand and drag it to the other side. Repeat with the other hand.
5. Continue with dumbbell shoulder presses x12 reps. Sit holding a dumbbell in each hand above your shoulders with bent elbows and palms facing forward. Press the weights above your head, straightening your arms. Maintain the position for a moment and bring the weights to shoulder height to complete a rep.
6. Wrap up the first set with dumbbell rows x12. Stand with a dumbbell in each hand. Bend at the waist as you row the weights toward your chest. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and keep your core engaged. Return to the initial position.
7. After completing all of the above exercises, repeat once or twice for a total of up to 3 sets.
Burpees engage your core while getting your heart pumping.
1. Start with feet at shoulder width.
2. Lower your body in a low squat.
3. Place your hands outside your feet and hop with your feet. Make sure your chest touches the floor.
4. Lift yourself into a plank and jump with your feet outside your hands.
5. Jump into the air explosively with arms overhead.
6. Do 12 reps and repeat for 2–3 sets.
Walking lunges make your core and legs stronger. For added difficulty, you can perform this exercise while holding dumbbells.
1. Stand with your feet at shoulder-width and hands on hips.
2. Step forward with your right leg, putting the weight into the heel.
3. Bend the right knee until it’s parallel to the floor. At the bottom, hold the position for a moment.
4. Move your other foot forward, repeating the above movement.
5. Repeat the movements, alternating legs.
6. Do 12 reps for each leg and repeat for 2–3 sets.
Medicine ball slam
Another exercise you can try for a stronger core is medicine ball slams. For this, you’ll need a medicine ball.
1. Stand with your feet at hip-width, holding the medicine ball above your head with both hands.
2. Slam the ball down forward, extending your arms and bending your knees.
3. Squat to pick the ball and return to the starting position.
4. Do 10 reps and repeat for 2–3 sets.
A form of cardio, mountain climbers give your body and core a thorough workout.
1. Start in a high-plank position with wrists under your shoulders.
2. Drive one knee toward your chest.
3. Return to the plank position.
4. Drive the other knee to your chest.
5. Return to the initial position.
6. Alternate legs, driving the knees quickly.
7. Do 12 reps with each leg and a total of 2–3 sets.
Adding Russian twists to your workout helps you get stronger and more defined obliques. You’ll need a medicine ball for this exercise.
1. Sit on the floor with your knees bent, feet off the ground, and the ball in your hand before your chest.
2. Lean back with your torso at a 45-degree angle.
3. Turn your torso to the right, squeezing your obliques.
4. Turn left and squeeze your obliques.
5. Repeat 12 times on each side.
6. Do 2–3 sets.
Running or walking on an incline
Is running good for weight loss? You bet. A study involving 4,720 Australian recreational runners found that starting to run leads to weight loss. This weight loss can include problematic belly fat.
Sticking to a regular running plan supports healthy weight maintenance. Brisk walking can also help burn fat.
Up the difficulty by running or walking on an incline. Research suggests that every 1% incline increase helps burn 12% more calories.
You may ask, “How much should I run to lose weight?” There are no hard and fast rules. Running 1 mile can burn about 100 calories, but it depends on your weight and other factors.
For significant results, you may have to run over 30 miles a week spread over several running sessions. You could, for example, start with 5 runs of 6 kilometers each at a moderate pace.
And if you’re wondering if jogging burns fat, the answer is yes. But if you jog at a slow pace, you’ll need to jog consistently and often.
Combine long endurance runs with HIIT or interval running. Add incline sprints to your running workouts to maximize results.
Jumping jacks are a full-body cardio exercise that’s easy to do at home.
1. Stand with your legs together while keeping your arms at your sides.
2. Bend your knees a little and jump up, spreading your legs apart and stretching your arms over your head.
3. Jump back into the initial position.
4. Do 12 reps and 2–3 sets.
Scissor legs are one of the most prescribed ab exercises and for good reason. It really works your abs.
1. Lie on your back with your legs extended and arms at your sides.
2. Engage your core and lift both legs off the floor at a 45-degree angle.
3. Lower one leg toward the floor as you lift the other.
4. Keep switching the legs.
5. Do 12 reps with each leg and 2–3 sets in total.
Tip: What about the time of day when you should train? Peak performance during training typically occurs in the afternoon. But if you consistently train in the morning, over time, this can lead to better training performance in the morning.
In the end, the best workout plan to lose belly fat is adapted to your fitness level and goals. Starting strong with intense belly fat exercises may not always be the best strategy.
Rather, you want to build up gradually to a consistent ab training plan. Working out your abs regularly is essential to burning belly fat and getting more defined abs.
If at any point you experience pain or discomfort, stop. Give your body time to rest and recover in between ab workouts.
For the best results, follow a personalized training and running plan to lose weight.
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