Looking to Lose That Belly Flab? AARP Suggests Comprehensive Approach
WASHINGTON — The evidence is, well, almost everywhere you turn.
According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 50% of American adults are struggling with belly fat.
And the problem becomes more acute as we age. That’s because belly fat, also known as visceral fat, can lead to a number of catastrophic health problems including heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes and dementia.
Want to assess your risk level? Health professionals suggest that a waist measurement of 35 inches or more for women or 40 inches or more for men is a sign that you’re one of those adults who falls into the “bad belly fat” category.
However, there is hope, as discussed in a recent article published by AARP. So long as one is willing to take a comprehensive lifestyle approach to battling the bulge, incorporating both diet and exercise into the effort.
The basic rules of thumb are these:
- Eat a balanced diet of whole, naturally fiber-rich foods.
- Be regularly active.
- Prioritize sleep.
- Don’t drink excessively.
- Manage your stress level.
One the exercise front, while Valerie Latona, author of the AARP piece, notes that regular, consistent cardiovascular, or aerobic, exercise like walking, running and swimming does burn calories and some fat, high-intensity intermittent exercise is a more efficient way of exercising and provides more results in less time.
High-intensity intermittent exercise is a form of cardiovascular exercise that alternates between short bouts of high-intensity and low-intensity exercise for the duration of the workout, which is usually 30 minutes or less.
This type of interval training can be as simple as walking or running at a slow pace, then speeding it up, then repeating.
Another rule of thumb discussed in the piece is this: “You can’t out-exercise a bad diet.”
That means, among other things, cut down on sugar, which health experts say is a major driver of belly fat.
It also means eating more of a plant-based diet including foods rich in monounsaturated fat like avocado and avocado oil, extra virgin olive oil, nuts and nut butter.
In addition to helping to reduce belly fat, a plant-based diet has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce inflammation.
Beans, lentils, peas and chickpeas also rate high on AARP’s list of suggested foods, with one health expert suggesting that regular eaters of these have generally smaller waist measurements and an over 20% lower risk of obesity.
Another tip — eat whole grains rather than refined grains. In addition to the beans and peas mentioned above, other recommended foods include “oranges, apples, pears, figs, broccoli, brussels sprouts, sweet potato and oats.”
What to avoid?
Well, as you might imagine, that sugary breakfast cereal you had this morning has to go. So does soda. And salty snacks.
Essentially, we’re talking about ultra-processed foods here, but as AARP points out, they are not all bad for you. Bagged salads are fine. As are frozen foods and vegetables.