If you stand up and look straight down and can’t see your toes, then you definitely have a pot belly.
A pot belly, known as abdominal obesity or central obesity in medical terms, occurs when excessive fat accumulates around the stomach and abdomen.
Your growing pot belly may make you self-conscious, as it becomes more difficult to fit into your clothes. More importantly, it is not at all good for your health. It can increase your risk of developing several diseases, from dementia to diabetes.
According to a 2004 study published in Diabetes Care, visceral and central abdominal fat showed a strong association with Type 2 diabetes (1).
A 2008 study published in Clinical Cornerstone found that the association between obesity and insulin resistance is largely due to changes in the function of adipose tissue, specifically increased release of free fatty acids and abnormalities in adipokine secretion (2).
Not just diabetes, abdominal obesity is also linked to age-related issues like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
A 2006 study published in Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders reports that Alzheimer’s disease may be associated with obesity, underweight and abdominal obesity in later life. However, researchers noted that larger prospective studies were needed to investigate this further (3).
A 2016 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology reports that increasing stomach fat is associated with newly identified and worsening heart disease risk factors.
The risk is high even after accounting for changes in body mass index and waist circumference, two commonly used methods to estimate whether someone is at a healthy weight (4).
It is obvious that health problems are linked to belly fat, but you can lose the stubborn fat and improve your overall health by following a healthy diet and exercise plan. In fact, there are several exercises that can help you keep your middle section flat and slim.
Here are some exercises and yoga poses that help reduce a pot belly.
1. Weight Training
Weight lifting, also known as strength or resistance exercises, helps a lot in reducing a pot belly. This type of exercise focuses on the use of resistance to induce muscular contractions.
According to a 2017 study by Harvard University and published in Obesity, the best way to shed the flab around your middle is to lift weights.
The study stated that those who did weight training gained less fat around their middle than those who purely did cardio exercises. This is because weight training not only burns fat but also kicks starts your metabolism by building muscle (5).
Before doing weight lifting, choose an appropriate amount of weight. You should choose a weight that you’ll be able to lift 10, 15 or 20 times before you experience muscle failure.
It is always best to do weight lifting under the guidance of an experienced trainer in the beginning.
2. Chair Yoga Pose
Chair Pose, also known as Utkatasana, is another very effective exercise to deal with a pot belly.
This yoga pose helps strengthen and tone the abdominal muscles. It also works the muscles in your arms and legs, and keeps them toned and in proper shape.
- Stand straight with your feet about hip-width apart.
- With an inhale, slowly raise your arms straight above your head.
- Exhale and fold your body forward at your hips to form a 45-degree angle.
- Keep your knees slightly bent, as if you are about to sit in a chair.
- Hold the position for 30 to 60 seconds, taking deep breaths.
- Inhale as you straighten your knees and slowly stand up.
- Exhale and release your arms to your sides.
- Repeat 10 to 15 times to complete a cycle.
- Do it 3 or 4 times a week.
3. Mountain Climbers
This simple exercise helps you lose weight effectively, especially the fat around your stomach. In fact, it is a full-body workout and provides complete abdominal and cardio training when done quickly.
The sit-ups, crunches, planks and other moves used in this exercise help strengthen and tone your muscles.
- Lie face down and place your palms flat on the floor at shoulder-length distance.
- Raise and position your body in a straight line, shifting your weight to your toes.
- Bring your right knee forward toward your chest.
- Slowly return it to its previous position.
- Repeat the steps using your left knee.
- Continue doing the above steps, alternating between your right and left knees.
- Do this daily for 5 to 10 minutes.
4. Standing Forward Bend Yoga Pose
Also known as Padahastasana, this yoga pose is also effective for reducing abdominal fat.
During this pose, complete compression of the abdomen occurs, which helps get rid of stubborn belly fat. It is also good for your muscle health.
- Stand up straight with your legs close together, heels touching each other.
- Keep your hands on either side of your body.
- Inhale deeply and lift your hands straight up over your head.
- Exhale and bend forward from the hips, but keep your legs straight.
- Place your hands on the ground with your fingertips in line with your toes or wrap your fingers under your feet.
- Bring your head as close to your knees as possible and do not put strain on your neck.
- Hold this position for up to 1 minute, taking deep breaths.
- To come out of the posture, inhale and slowly roll your body up, bringing the head up last.
- Repeat 5 to 10 times, with an interval of 10 seconds between 2 repetitions.
- Do this once daily.
Crunches are also one of the best-known exercises for burning stomach fat very easily and quickly.
- Lie down on your back flat on the floor.
- Bend your knees into a V-shape.
- Put your palms face up next to your ears, but do not interlock them behind your head.
- Slowly lift your head and raise your chest just a little.
- Tighten your stomach muscles.
- Exhale as you use your abdominal muscles to raise your head and upper back off the floor.
- Hold your position for 3 to 5 seconds.
- Inhale as you return to your starting position.
- Repeat 10 to 12 times to form a complete set.
- Perform 3 sets, 4 times a week.
6. Bicycle Exercise
The bicycle exercise is a highly effective form of exercise to help reduce stubborn belly fat. It not only burns your stomach fat but also tightens your tummy muscles.
- Lie flat on the floor and keep your hands on either side of your head.
- Lift both your legs off the ground, bending them at your knees so they are at a 90-degree angle.
- Pull your right knee close to your chest, keeping your left leg out.
- Then, put your right leg out and bring your left knee close to your chest.
- Keep rotating your legs in a manner similar to riding a bicycle.
- Repeat this 10 to 12 times.
- Do this 3 or 4 times a week.
Dietary and Lifestyle Tips
Along with exercise, certain dietary and lifestyle changes can help you reach your goal.
- Gain control over the portions of food you eat to help reduce your total calorie intake. Always eat from a plate instead of out the box, and use smaller plates and bowls to help with portion control.
- Eat more foods rich in complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean proteins like fish, poultry, beans, soy and low-fat dairy products.
- Instead of frying your food, cook using healthy techniques like baking, broiling, roasting or steaming your food.
- Eat more foods that are rich in soluble fiber, as this helps decrease the accumulation of belly fat.
- Avoid drinks like soda, coffee, fruit juice and alcohol, as they are concentrated sources of calories.
- Increase your intake of water, lemon water, unsweetened tea or sugar-free drinks. If you do not like plain water, you can opt for flavored water.
- Always have a healthy breakfast and do not skip this important meal. Oatmeal or plain yogurt topped with nuts or fruit are some healthy choices.
- Carry healthy snacks with you. Good options include a small handful of almonds or walnuts, a fresh apple, or baby carrots with Greek yogurt dip.
- Maintaining good posture while sitting and standing can also help.
- You can get rid of that bloated, puffy feeling by drinking the right amount of water and managing your salt intake.
- Even reducing stress can help shrink your pot belly.
- Visceral and central abdominal fat and anthropometry in relation to diabetes in Asian Indians. Diabetes Care. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15562212. Publication December 2004.
- Obesity, abdominal obesity, and insulin resistance. Clinical Cornerstone. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19046737.
- Obesity, abdominal obesity and Alzheimer disease. Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16847377.
- Why belly fat is dangerous for the heart. ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/09/160926142822.htm. Published September 26, 2016.
- Weight training helps maintain muscle mass in overweight adults – Harvard Health. Harvard Health Blog. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/weight-training-helps-maintain-muscle-mass-in-overweight-adults.