What Exercise Burns the Most Belly Fat?

Ask a Doctor

My sister is getting married in a few months and, though I’m ashamed to say it, I’m pretty envious. She’s younger than me and we’ve always been competitive. I don’t even have a boyfriend right now, and she’s already picked out an unflattering maid-of-honor dress for me. I’m dieting and exercising now so at least I’ll be stunning at the wedding (maybe catch the eye of a groomsman?) but I need some expert advice. Like, am I doing too much or not enough cardio? How do I get toned abs? What exercise burns the most belly fat?

Doctor’s Response

There are two main types of exercise that can help burn body fat. Aerobic (endurance) exercises include walking, running, swimming, and cycling. Strength (resistance) exercises include weight lifting, resistance equipment, and weight-bearing exercises including squats and push-ups.

There is no one exercise that targets belly fat, rather, a combination of aerobic and strength exercises together can help burn overall body fat better than these exercises performed alone. Further, long-term exercise programs can cause a larger reduction in belly fat and help maintain it.

Abdominal exercises won’t specifically burn belly fat, but they can help the belly appear flatter and more toned. Crunches, sit-ups, bicycles, and planks are effective exercises to strengthen and tone the abdominal muscles.

Moderate physical activity, such as walking, helps you lose weight and keep your weight down. At least 30 minutes of exercise a day is recommended.

  • Try to exercise at least five days a week.
  • Not exercising will sabotage any weight loss plan. Add movement, even in short 10-minute bursts throughout your day to get in 30 minutes a day.
  • Simple measures such as parking at the far end of the parking lot and taking the stairs instead of the elevator eventually add up to help you lose weight.
  • Exercise strengthens your muscles and improves the function of your heart and lungs.
  • If you are obese, particularly if you are inactive or have medical problems, check with a health care professional before starting an exercise program.

To get rid of body fat overall -- and by extension, belly fat – eating less is more important that exercise. Pay attention to serving sizes (portion control). Read food labels to find out how many calories and fat calories are in a serving. Keep a food diary or log to find ways to eliminate extra calories. By decreasing calorie intake by 500 per day, you will lose 1 pound a week. One way to eat fewer calories is to limit your fat intake. No more than 30% of your daily calorie intake should be fat calories.

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Gayle M. Galletta, MD coauthored this article


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Leigh Perreault, MD. Obesity in adults: Role of physical activity and exercise. 29 August 2017. 10 November 2018 .

NHS. 10-minute abs workout. 16 January 2018. 10 November 2018 .