By Rita La Rosa Loud, B.S.
Older adults train at our fitness facility for a variety of reasons: to lose weight, get stronger, boost metabolism, increase energy, improve sleep, enhance sports performance, function better, feel better, and to address stubborn belly fat. As one gentleman declared, “I am in great shape, yet I have a jelly belly!” Also, pre-/post-menopausal women complain, “I used to have great abs, but now I have a spare tire!” While we all desire to look lean in our swimsuits during the summer months, resoundingly, it is not the only objective for shrinking our tummies.
You may have heard the worst place to store excess fat is around your middle. And you would be right. Possessing an enlarged waist circumference and overage of adepose (intra-abdominal fat) can give rise to health problems, such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and premature death. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in both men and women, waist-to-hip ratio of
HOW TO MEASURE WAIST TO HIP RATIO
To measure your waist circumference:
Stand tall, then exhale. Place tape measure around smallest part of the waist (above the belly button).
To measure your hip circumference:
Remain standing. Place tape measure around largest part of the hips (widest part of buttocks).
To calculate waist to hip ratio:
Divide waist circumference by your hip circumference.
1.0 or higher increases these risks. Some individuals choose to purely engage in aerobic activity to reduce the size of their belly. Others futilely perform an enormous number of sit-ups to attain the elusive six-pack. Many repeatedly go on crash diets to shed belly fat pounds and from other problematic areas of the body. This quick fix is temporary as it triggers the body to lose active muscle tissue ultimately slowing down metabolism, followed by fat accumulation in the midsection (belly). To be precise, within a year’s time, yo-yo dieters regain more fat than they started with, especially in undesirable areas, like hips, thighs, buttocks, and midriff regions.
Certainly, it is wise to strengthen abdominal musculature, but focusing simply on the abdominals, is not enough stimulus to decrease adipose tissue from this area. Plus, experts might argue that there is no such thing as spot reducing. An inclusive exercise program is necessary to tackle this issue—for example, resistance training combined with cardiovascular exercise and a balanced nutrition plan that includes quality protein sources. Refer to July 2020 article, “Do you Like M&M’s?” in favor of muscle and protein.
THE 3-STEP SERIES
STEP 1: Resistance training coupled with,
STEP 2: Aerobic exercise along with,
STEP 3: A balanced diet supplemented with additional protein.
Together, these three steps are effective for whittling the waistline, essential for maintaining a healthy weight and could be the answer to combatting abdominal obesity. Banking on aerobics or dieting alone is a short-term solution. While aerobic activities expend calories, fat burning muscle tissue from resistance exercise and a balanced, effective eating pattern, along with higher protein intake, are what build and maintain muscle and increase metabolism. Just think, the more muscle you have, the more calories you use up throughout the day whatever activity you engage in.
To grasp why: (1) exclusively dieting reduces muscle and metabolism; (2) dieting in unison with aerobics increases muscles loss, and (3) moderate calorie reduction combined with aerobic exercise and resistance training is considered the cream of the crop for both fat loss and muscle gain, see January 2022 article, A Better Way to Lose Weight … It May Surprise You!
Several studies have revealed that women who strength train lose significantly more body fat in their midsection than women who do not strength train. In effect, strength training is the key means of reducing adipose resulting from resistance training in both older women (and men) as well. Ladies and gentlemen, this is great news! These subjects performed resistance and aerobic exercise, not simply belly exercises, or a low-calorie diet that strips muscle and contributes to fat gain.
This leads me to our Exercise and Nutrition Weight Loss and Weight Maintenance Study consisting of basic strength training, aerobic exercise, extra protein intake, and a sensible calorie plan. Not only did those who completed this study improve in several health/fitness parameters, they lost on average 0.5 inches in waist girth during the post diet phase and averaged 0.5 more inches lost in waist girth during the maintenance phase. Indeed, these are very encouraging results.
Research has proven that integrating resistance training and aerobic exercise with a balanced diet helps mature men and women maintain a healthy weight, and waistline. So, to control belly fat, and minimize troublesome spots (hips, thighs, buttocks), it is recommended to: (1) strengthen all major muscles of the upper/lower body and midsection, (2) engage in aerobic activities, and (3) consume a balanced diet supplemented with protein. For protein and calorie recommendations, see October 2022 article, “CHEEW: Choose How to Eat and Exercise Wisely!
Below is a 5-Minute Belly Buster by workout creator, Wayne Westcott, Ph.D. from the book, The Belly Melt Diet from the Editors of Prevention. Here are four exercises, sequenced by Dr. Westcott, for sculpting abdominals that our members found both challenging and effective. (1) Trunk Curl, (2) Single-Knee Trunk Curl, (3) Double-Knee Trunk Curl, and (4) Legs-Up Trunk Curl. The exercises are performed with no breaks between exercises to temporary muscular fatigue; and for the best results, done slowly and deliberately. Beginners may complete a Belly Buster series twice a week, whereas more advanced exercisers can do up to four times a week. But, if you are a novice, add in a brief rest interval after each exercise and build up to twice a week.
Wayne Westcott, Ph.D. Center for Health and Fitness at Quincy College
If you are seeking a structured, supervised strength training program to combat muscle loss and fat gain, plus prevent metabolic rate slow-down, please consider the Wayne Westcott, Ph.D. Center for Health and Fitness, President’s Place, 1250 Hancock Street. Book a tour, a free class, or learn how to enroll by calling Rita at 617.405.5978. Free 1-2-hour parking is on Hancock, Washington, Coddington Streets; parking garage is next to the building for a small fee.
Rita La Rosa Loud holds a B.S. in Exercise Physiology with additional education in Sports Medicine and Athletic Training. She is NASM Certified, and has been actively involved in the fitness industry for over 35 years. She is an author and writes fitness related articles for various fitness publications. Rita is a fitness researcher and directs the COVID compliant, Wayne Westcott, Ph.D. Center for Health and Fitness at Quincy College. She can be reached at 617.405.5978 and is available for speaking engagements.