Abdominal fat—also known as visceral fat—is body fat stored deep in the abdominal cavity, surrounding vital organs such as the intestines and liver. “Middle aged spread” is a very real thing for people over 40—but it doesn’t have to be. “Belly fat is even associated with a shorter life,” says Bret Scher, MD. “Even ‘normal weight’ people, as defined by BMI, with extra belly fat are at increased risk of health complications. As we saw in 2020, more visceral fat is associated with a higher risk of severe COVID-19 complications. Fortunately, excess belly fat can be reduced. Studies show that reducing it improves metabolic health and is likely to improve overall health.” Here are five ways to get rid of belly fat quickly after 40, according to experts. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
Not into cardio? Not a problem. Studies show that resistance training is highly effective in blasting belly fat. “We did a two-year intervention study in premenopausal women who did only twice weekly weight training,” says Kathryn Schmitz, a professor at the Perelman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania. “We didn’t ask them to do any aerobic activity or to make any dietary changes. We found that twice weekly weight training substantively prevented increases in belly fat in women who got the intervention versus those who did not.”
If you want to get rid of abdominal fat, experts recommend avoiding overly processed junk food. “Nutrition plays a vital role in reducing abdominal fat. Many diets that promote weight loss, including vegan diets and chronic caloric restriction, can help people lose belly fat,” says Dr. Scher. “However, the key is finding a sustainable diet that provides adequate nutrition and still helps you lose belly fat. For many, a low-carb diet may be an effective option, and adding intermittent fasting is also promising.”
Sleep deprivation is linked to an increase in visceral fat, so make sure to focus on good quality, restorative sleep (at least seven hours a night, according to the CDC). “Our findings show that shortened sleep, even in young, healthy and relatively lean subjects, is associated with an increase in calorie intake, a very small increase in weight, and a significant increase in fat accumulation inside the belly,” says Virend Somers, MD, Ph.D.
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Did you know stress is making you fat? Chronic stress encourages our bodies to produce cortisol, which can lead to belly fat—and the more belly fat you have, the more cortisol is produced, creating a vicious cycle. “Since abdominal fat also tends to increase cortisol levels, this can lead to a vicious and unhealthy cycle, especially in women,” says the American Institute of Stress. “There is little doubt that increased stress and/or cortisol can cause increased abdominal fat and weight gain.”
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“If your parents or siblings have insulin resistance, heart disease or non-alcoholic fatty liver, you may be at a greater risk for storing visceral fat,” says Trinh Le, MPH, RD. “Keeping an eye on your visceral fat may be beneficial, but know that the causes of these chronic diseases are complex. If you’re in doubt, it’s best to speak with your healthcare provider.”