Upper belly fat is the visceral adipose tissue (VAT) around the intra-abdominal organs. It is medically known as central obesity and is found in both men and women with increasing age. Peak obesity rates occur between the ages of 50 and 70 (1).
Genetics, bad food habits, and improper lifestyle are the major causes of upper belly fat. Spot reduction is not a viable long-term option for reducing upper belly fat. The only way to reduce it the healthy way is through exercise, a healthy diet, and lifestyle changes.
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Steps To Reduce Upper Belly Fat
Losing weight from the upper abdomen requires a holistic approach – exercise, healthy diet, and focus on lifestyle changes. Before starting this process, calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI) and Waist Circumference (WC) to know your status better.
1. Exercises To Lose Upper Body Fat
These exercises do not focus on spot reduction but help strengthen your core, aid inch loss, and tone your body.
a. Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation)
This is an excellent exercise for the entire body. It is not only effective for weight management and preventing obesity, but it also improves your cardiorespiratory health (2). There are 12 poses in Sun Salutation.
Target: Whole body
- Stand at the end of the mat, keeping your feet together and your spine straight. Puff your chest out and roll your shoulders to relax them.
- Breathe in, lift your hands to your sides, and join your palms in front of your chest in a prayer pose while exhaling.
- Inhale, lift your arms, and stretch them back completely. Make sure that your biceps touch your ears.
- Exhale and bend forward from the waist while keeping your spine straight. Try to touch your head to your knees and place both palms on the ground beside your feet. Try to keep your knees straight.
- Breathe out and push your right leg back as far as possible, touching your knee to the floor. Bend your head back and lookup. Your left leg should be between your palms, folding at the knee and perpendicular to the floor.
- Breathe in and push your left leg back and align your whole body.
- Slowly press your knees together, breathe out, push your hips back slightly, and rest your chin and chest on the floor.
- Slide forward until your chest and chin are up in a cobra pose and your elbows are bent. Your shoulders should be away from your ears. Hold this posture for 5 seconds.
- Breathe out and lift your hips and tailbone up to form an inverted-V position. Both your feet should be flat on the floor and your knees should be straight. Try to look at your navel while in this position.
- Breathe in and pull your right leg between your palms. Your left leg should be touching the floor. Keep your hips down and lookup.
- Bring your left leg between your palms. Your palms should be touching the floor and your head should be at your knees.
- Breathe in, pull your hands up, and bend backward. Push your hips out a bit.
- Breathe out and bring down your arms. Straighten your body and relax and feel the stretch in all parts of your body.
b. Plank Hold
Target: Upper belly, thighs, and arms.
- Lie down on your stomach with your knees bent and feet on the ground.
- Bend your elbows and place your forearms on the ground. Align your elbows with your shoulders.
- Align your feet with your hips.
- Tighten your core and glute muscles. Lift your abs and hips off the ground. They should be aligned with your shoulders.
- Flex your hips forward and hold this position for 30 seconds.
- Practice these 3 rounds with 30 seconds of hold.
c. Bicycle Crunches
Target: Abdomen, hips, and obliques.
- Lie down on your back. Relax your entire body.
- Place your hands behind your head. Interlock them just above your neck.
- Bend both the knees and bring them close to your belly.
- Lift your shoulders and head. Straighten your left leg and bring your left elbow close to your right knee. Bring your left leg back to your belly.
- Simultaneously, straighten your right leg and bring your right elbow close to your left knee. Bring your right knee back to your belly. This completes one set
- Do 2 sets of 20 reps each.
d. Russian Twist
Target: Core, obliques, and spine.
- Sit on a yoga mat with your knees bent and feet on the floor.
- Tighten your core, lean back, and lift both your legs at a 45° angle with the floor while bending the knees slightly.
- Lift your hands in the front and slowly twist your upper body to one side. Your legs should be fixed at the 45° angle.
- Twist to the other side. You can cross your ankles to maintain your balance. This completes one rep.
- Do 3 sets of 12 reps each.
e. Leg Raise
Target: Abdomen and core.
- Lie down on your back.
- Place both your hands – palms facing down – on the ground beside your body. Your legs should be straight.
- Lift both your legs straight towards the ceiling until your butt comes off the floor. You can support your butt by placing your palms beneath it.
- Lower your legs slowly but do not touch the ground completely.
- Do 3 sets of 20 reps each.
2. Eat Your Way To A Slimmer You
Diet is also a major factor that can help you get back in shape. A proper diet can go a long way in keeping you slim and healthy. Eat frequently, but consume smaller meals rather than eating large meals and burdening your digestive system.
A study conducted at the Medical University Vienna on 20 obese women proved that following a calorie-deficit diet along with aerobic exercises can reduce body fat (3).
Here are some changes you can make in your diet to lose upper belly bulge:
- Include protein-rich foods in every meal. Your snacks should be rich in good-quality protein to curb binging.
- Replace grains with whole grains at least 1-2 times a day.
- Include healthy fats in your diet, like nuts, seeds, and clarified butter.
- Bulk up on fiber-rich foods and have 1-2 servings of fruits on a daily basis.
- Replace high-calorie foods with low-calorie, nutrient-rich foods that are healthy and energize your body.
- Avoid oily and junk food like chips, baked products, cookies, and sweets. Replace them with salads made of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Reduce salt intake.
- Water is the best beverage. Instead of reaching for aerated sodas or energy drinks, drink plain water. Water cleanses your body and flushes out all the toxins, keeping you slim and hydrated.
3. Change Your Lifestyle
When it comes to reducing upper belly fat and managing your weight, a few lifestyle changes can go a long way in making a difference. Here are a few changes that you can incorporate:
a. Cope With Stress: Stress leads to cravings for salt and sugar. A study on rats proved that fatty foods (lard) reduce stress by regulating hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal responses (4). This explains the aforementioned cravings and the weight gain they lead to.
Learning how to deal with anxiety and stress can cut off these triggers and help you maintain a healthy lifestyle. Eat foods that are rich in tryptophan like chicken, soya bean, nuts, bananas. Tryptophan is a precursor of serotonin (a feel-good hormone). Thus, eating tryptophan-rich foods can help improve your mood (5).
You can also practice deep breathing exercises, meditate, and walk for 30 minutes daily to cut back your stress.
b. Sleep At Least 7 Hours In A Day
Peaceful sleep is an important modulator of metabolism and neuroendocrine function. Inadequate sleep has been found to be associated with increased hunger, appetite, and craving for calorie-dense, high-carbohydrate content food (6). Hence, aim to sleep at least 7 hours a day.
Upper belly fat is not only unhealthy but can also affect your self-image and mental health. If you are wondering what causes upper belly fat, check out the next section.
Causes Of Upper Abdominal Weight Gain
There could be multiple reasons for putting on weight in the upper belly region. The most common causes are:
- Unhealthy eating habits
- A sedentary lifestyle with no physical exercise
- Lack of sleep
- Leading a stressful lifestyle that is high on both physical and mental stress
- Advancing age with slow metabolic rate
If you are trying to lose upper belly fat, it is important to set realistic goals and work toward them diligently. Spend 30 minutes every day on upper ab workout. The golden rule to follow when you are trying to lose upper body weight is “80% diet and 20% exercise.”
Focus on healthy eating practices along with changing your sedentary lifestyle to lose upper body fat. Talk to your doctor and nutritionist to set your weight loss goals.