As we get older, muscle mass tends to diminish and be replaced by fat. Even if you aren’t gaining weight, some women may notice an increase specifically in belly fat. This is typically due to a decreasing level of estrogen, which is thought to influence where fat is distributed on the body. The trouble with this kind of fat is that it’s not just subcutaneous fat (the extra layer of padding just below the skin) but also includes visceral fat (fat that is deep inside your abdomen, surrounding your internal organs). While subcutaneous fat often affects body image, visceral fat has much more serious implications, to include cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer.
So what can you do about it? Although subcutaneous and visceral fat are two very different forms of fat, they will respond to the same diet and exercises in order to burn them away. To lower your overall body fat and stay toned, follow these simple steps:
- Eat a healthy diet. Focus on plant-based foods and lean protein. Avoid saturated fats, and focus on moderate amounts of the “healthy” fats–fish, nuts, and healthy oils.
- Moderate portion sizes. In order to keep calories down, try to be aware of the amount of food you’re putting on your plate. At restaurants, try to split meals, or eat half and take the other half home for leftovers.
- Don’t forget exercise! Regular exercise has so many health benefits, inside and out. To burn even more fat, consider adding a couple additional high intensity interval training workouts to your routine each week.
Another great option for burning belly fat is belly dance! While belly dancing originated in the Middle East, it has evolved over time and its popularity has spread globally. In addition to the known benefits of regular exercise, here are just a few of the additional benefits that are unique to belly dancing:
- Improved posture and muscle tone. The movements in belly dance put the joints and ligaments in the lower back and hips through a full range of motion, which can help tone muscles, relieve lower back pain, and improve posture by strengthening those muscles.
- Preparation for childbirth. Hip tucks and abdominal movements taught in belly dance mimic the movements taught during pre-natal classes, and can increase abdominal muscle tone, making childbirth easier.
- Stress reduction. The repetitive movements of the dance and the concentration required to do them can be soothing, increasing blood flow and helping to relax the body.
- Aiding in digestion. Exercising the abdominal area through rolling the belly and swaying the torso helps to move food along the digestive system.
Want to try Belly Dancing? Come join Inversions Pole Fitness for Belly Dance Blast class, held Tuesdays at 7pm in Session 24 (April 20-May 24). Come shimmy and shake your way to a trim waistline!