Battling Belly Fat

Battling Belly Fat

Trim the flab with at-home ab exercises

If gym closings, added stress, and pandemic paralysis caused you to gain weight this past year, you aren’t alone. The Covid-19 weight gain is real. Some 61% of U.S. adults reported undesired weight changes during the first year of the pandemic, with an average weight gain of 29 pounds, according a survey by the American Psychological Association in February 2021. 

While it’s important to be kind and compassionate to ourselves and our bodies, weight gain in the belly is especially dangerous. 

“Research has shown that visceral fat is the most dangerous kind of fat,” says Anna Balabanova Shannahan, MD, associate director of education at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Northwestern Medicine. “Belly fat puts one at increased risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, liver disease, and an overall higher mortality rate.”

Belly fat can be problematic even if your body mass index (BMI) is normal or only slightly overweight, because BMI doesn’t indicate where the fat is in the body. “When we look at people with the same BMI, those with more belly fat have higher risk for heart disease and diabetes,” Balabanova Shannahan says.

Because belly fat surrounds internal organs and is more metabolically active than fat in other areas of the body, it secretes more inflammatory markers that can lead to cardiovascular diseases, she explains. 

Ab exercises can be a great place to start to combat belly fat. Just remember that ab exercises alone won’t necessarily get rid of belly fat. “You need to focus on both diet and overall exercise — ideally a combination of both aerobic and resistance training — to decrease it and keep it from coming back,” Balabanova Shannahan says. 

At-Home Ab Workouts

Christian Koshaba, owner of health and fitness center Three60fit in Arlington Heights, admits that even as a gym owner and fitness trainer, it was difficult to stay motivated during quarantine with healthy eating and staying active. Now, it’s important to get back into shape. 

Koshaba recommends these five exercises to help battle belly fat. You can do these movements in a circuit. Start by setting a five-minute timer for the circuit. Every week or two, add 30 or 60 seconds to the clock, achieving as many reps as possible during that time. You can perform this circuit three times per week, Koshaba says.

Ab exercises ab workouts

Ab exercises

Pictured above: Christian Koshaba. Photos by James Foster. Originally published in the Fall/Winter 2021 print issue.