There may be more to a generously padded paunch than simply spoiling the look of your favourite jeans. That’s because belly fat can point to serious lifestyle diseases and health risks.
A little squishy around the waist? Who cares? If it's putting your health at risk, we do. Calculate your hip-to-waist ratio to see if yours falls into the dangerous category. A ratio of more than 0.95 for men and 0.85 for women may mean you have a predisposition to heart disease, and should be extra careful with your diet and lifestyle.
Work off that belly fat for real health benefits
Studies have shown that insulin resistance is closely linked to fat distributed around the tummy. And insulin resistance makes people more vulnerable to developing diseases such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, breast cancer, and stroke.
We know that if we take in more calories than we expend (for basic metabolic processes and exercise), then the excess energy will be stored in our bodies’ so-called fat depots. Where in the body the fat is actually stored depends on various factors such as gender, age and ethnicity. So-called 'android' obesity develops when most of the stored fat occurs in the upper body.
As we get older, more fat tends to be deposited in this part of the body – hence the term ‘middle-aged spread’. Android fat distribution is found mainly in men. On the other hand, body fat that is distributed in the lower part of the body (thighs, buttocks) and occurs more usually in women, is called 'gynoid' obesity. So, however much you dislike your pear shape, take heart from the fact that this type of excess weight may be better for your heart!
Losing the bad bits
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to target fat in one specific area of the body through exercise. One way to improve the appearance of a jelly belly is by creating a ‘platform’ for the excess fat by developing the muscles behind it. But if your over-all body fat percentage is too high, no amount of crunches will give you rock-hard abs if you don’t follow a sensible diet.
Fitness experts recommend that you do a combination of resistance training and cardio exercise to keep excess pounds at bay. At Virgin Active, we’ve got everything you need to successfully incorporate both exercise methods into your exercise routine.
Getting the balance right
Forget restrictive or elimination diets. And don’t fall prey to popular fad diets with short-lived results. Get the balance right by following these simple steps:
- Watch your portions. If you need to lose weight, cut back on portion sizes and snacking.
- Use the 80/20 rule. It’s okay to have a piece of chocolate every now and then. Don’t beat yourself up about it, but also don’t make it a daily habit. If you make sure you eat healthily 80 percent of the time, what you eat the other 20 percent of the time probably doesn’t matter that much.
- Read the label. Obsessively scanning food labels for the nutritional value of every morsel you put into your mouth is no-one’s idea of fun. But becoming aware of hidden sugars and fats in seemingly healthy foods can help you make better food choices.
- Many low-fat breakfast cereals are laden with sugar, while innocent-looking, high-fibre biscuits may contain more fat than you think.