Mind-body exercises such as yoga can reduce stress, a factor that can contribute to excess belly fat.
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You've probably heard the statistics. After the age of 30, people start to lose lean tissue and bone mass in increasing amounts. As we age, changes in hormone levels also seem to draw fat toward the belly like a magnet. While all of that is true, it doesn't mean that you should just resign yourself to buying pants of increasing size every year. At 60, your body composition may not be the same as that of a 30-year-old. However, when it comes to exercise, the path to getting rid of that belly fat will involve doing some of the same elements as younger adults do.
Your First Goal: Burn Calories and Fat
Some people think they need to do situps or crunches to get rid of belly fat, but those exercises strengthen the muscles and don't really burn fat. Fat is fat, no matter where it's placed on the body. To get rid of it, you have to do exercises that burn calories, creating a "calorie deficit" in which you're burning more calories than you're consuming. If you're currently sedentary, you'll probably see results fairly quickly by simply moving your body more. Walking, swimming, water fitness classes and cycling are some of the most viable forms of exercise for older people, as they're all low impact and tend to cause less pain than high-impact exercises such as jogging. Start out slow and perform 15 minutes of exercise two or three days a week. Gradually add more time until you're able to do about 30 minutes of exercise at a time, five days a week.
A Fat-Burning Variation: HIIT
If you're already a regular exerciser who is battling that abdominal fat, you may be ready for more intense training. Anyone over 55 should talk to a doctor before starting a new exercise program regardless of its intensity, but it's especially important before starting any high-intensity interval training, often called just "HIIT." The high level of intensity may be inappropriate for people on certain medications or with certain conditions. HIIT works like this -- choose any type of cardio you enjoy, whether it's walking, cycling, swimming or using an elliptical trainer. After a warm-up of five to 10 minutes, increase your speed to a level that feels like it's about a 7 or 8 on an intensity scale of 1 to 10. After 30 seconds, slow down to an intensity of 5 for 1 minute, and then go back to high intensity for another 30 seconds. Keep repeating the cycle for a total of four to eight times, and then perform a cool-down. According to the American Council on Exercise, HIIT is a great way to burn abdominal fat.
Don't Dismiss Strength Training
It's often overlooked by older exercisers, but because of the increasing loss of bone mass, strength training is especially important as we age. Not only will it strengthen your muscles and help you prevent falls, but strength training can also help you burn more calories since muscle burns them more efficiently. Your strength training routine can include free weights or machines, but it doesn't have to. You can also lift your own body weight doing lunges, squats and modified pullups and pushups. Alternatively, use a resistance tube to perform biceps curls, triceps extensions and shoulder presses for the upper body. Aim to do three or four exercises for the upper body and three or four for the lower body just twice per week. Start out with one set of 12 repetitions for each exercise, and then add a second set after several weeks or months of training.
A Few Belly-Strengthening Exercises
While it's true that abs exercises won't reduce the belly, they do have their place. The core, which includes the abdominal muscles, is the basis of all movement, so having a strong core means you'll be able to do the activities involved in daily living more safely and with less risk of injury. Some older people dread the thought of doing crunches or situps because of the discomfort of lying on the floor. The good news is that you don't have to get down that low. Try performing crunches on an exercise ball or using the ball to hold your feet as you perform plank exercises. Raise one thigh off the seat as you sit in a chair, holding the thigh an inch or so above the seat for as long as you can. Then switch sides and lift the opposite thigh. Like the other strength exercises you're doing, aim to do core-strengthening exercises two or three days a week.