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The Healthy Food Guide team believe that making small diet and lifestyle changes brings the best long-term gains. We look at the science behind the headlines and promote a balanced way of eating.

Have you gone up a notch or two on your belt? Following a healthy, balanced diet that’s lower in calories, together with exercising regularly, is the best way to shave the centimetres from your waist and add years to your life

 

Exercise increases muscle and muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue, even at rest. To get rid of that spare tyre, aim for at least half an hour of exercise every day.

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1 Walk it off

‘If you’re out of shape and looking to start a new routine, walking around 3–4km daily can help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce belly fat. But keep it brisk so you feel a bit breathless if you try to talk,’ says fitness coach Ian Mellis (resultsfast.co.uk).

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2 Work those muscles

For weight loss, Ian suggests squats and lunges, which use large muscle groups, in combination with cardiovascular work such as cycling, swimming or running.

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3 Do quick bursts

If you’re too busy or tired to do a full half hour, do short 5–10 minute exercise bursts, with 8–20 seconds of activity and 12–20 seconds of recovery, known as High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). HIIT is a time-efficient way of training. Studies have shown it can help improve your body’s ability to use energy appropriately rather than store it as fat,’ says Ian. ‘HIIT quickly uses up your glycogen stores so your body burns fat for fuel.’ Check with your GP before starting any new exercise routine.

Myth 1: Weights work better than aerobic exercise

‘No single type of exercise has more effect on belly fat,’ explains Ian. ‘Weight training helps maintain lean muscle mass, but cardiovascular exercise, if prescribed in the right way, can help burn body fat as well. The most effective programmes combine resistance training with variations in intensity of cardiovascular exercise.’

Myth 2: Sit-ups reduce tummy fat

‘Fat loss caused by exercise occurs all over the body. There’s no such thing as an exercise that reduces body fat in a certain area, so sit-ups may work your abdominal muscles but they won’t magically reduce belly fat,’ says Ian.

*Weight-loss results will vary and are down to your individual circumstances and the amount of weight you have to lose.