You already know that shedding abdominal fat means spending time at the gym, but you may be wondering just how intense your cardio workouts have to be. Some experts say that moderate intensity is enough, but others will tell you that it’s best to go all-out. So, how hard should you be exercising?
Is high-intensity aerobics really necessary for abdominal fat loss?
A 2009 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found no difference between moderate and vigorous workouts. 112 overweight or obese postmenopausal women took part in the three-week program. The participants were randomly sorted into three categories: calorie restriction, calorie restriction with moderate exercise and calorie restriction with vigorous exercise. The moderate exercisers kept their heart rates at 45-50% of maximum and the vigorous exercisers kept their heart rates at 70-75% of maximum. To keep the calorie deficits equal, the exercise groups made up for the calories they burned by eating more than the diet-only group.
The 95 women who finished the program all lost about the same amount of weight and abdominal fat regardless of whether they were in the diet group or an exercise group. Even so, while dieting alone may help to reduce your weight, you need exercise for overall fitness. The study found that even though the exercisers didn’t lose more fat, they did keep more of their muscle mass. Among other health benefits, keeping and building muscle mass will help you to burn calories more efficiently.
Unlike the research participants, you’re free to reduce your calories in addition to exercising. The study suggests combining both methods for increased results. Both the dieters and the exercisers lost weight, but the exercisers ate more to ensure that all groups had the same calorie deficit. It’s possible for you to increase your calorie deficit with dieting in addition to an aerobic exercise program of whatever intensity level you prefer.
Aerobic exercise combined with a diet can reduce abdominal fat loss, but does it matter whether you exercise at high or moderate intensity?
Aerobic exercise is an important part of your weight loss strategy, but increasing the intensity has no additional benefit. Half an hour of exercise on most days of the week should do just fine in most cases, although it never hurts to consult with your doctor about what level of exercise is right for you.
Remember that the exercise that works best is the one that you’ll actually do. The study found that people who had a long way to go tended to prefer—and were more likely to stick with—moderate-intensity exercises like walking rather than high-intensity exercises. The important thing is that you exercise, because that will help you lose more fat and gain more muscle than dieting alone will. As your fitness level increases, so will your ability to exercise harder.