The Best Way to Lose Belly Fat & Embark on a New Fitness Regime
Uplift Studios, a fitness studio in Manhattan, is a women-only exercise space offering group classes, personal training and private events. Uplift believes that working out and having an active social life are two key elements to creating happy and successful lives for women; thus, their studio is not just about sweating as the best way to lose pesky belly fat--though that's definitely a huge part of it--it's also about a community (which sometimes means enjoying a glass of wine at the studio following a grueling cardiovascular class).
Recently, I chatted with Leanne Shear, one of the founders of the studio (not to mention an avid runner in fabulous shape) and learned that a toned tummy requires a rounder approach to exercise (i.e. simply doing 1000 crunches a day won't necessarily banish belly fat). But, take heart, ladies, Shear's advice is solid and encouraging. By Stacey Gawronski
Elizabeth Street: What advice do you have for women looking to begin a workout routine? (How often should they be working out? And at what level of intensity?)
Leanne Shear: I think starting a little bit more slowly is the safest bet: for a beginner, 2-4 times a week is a good, healthy beginning. Really it boils down to listening to your body: If you feel good, it is perfectly fine to add in more days (especially if your routine varies and is a strong mix of cardio, strength, toning, stretching, etc) and longer duration. If it is a bigger adjustment and hard on your body, take it a little more slowly.
ES: Is there any specific workout that you'd recommend for beginners?
LS: As previously mentioned, I would say variety is important. Doing the same thing day in and day out is not at all effective, plus out of the gates a person should do a mix of cardio, strength, toning and stretching for optimal health. The other thing that I tell people a lot is that a person doesn't need to exercise for a long period of time to get amazing results. If you have 20 minutes, make it a little more intense (eg, adding intervals or sprints to an otherwise slower jog) and you will reap just as many benefits, if not more, as you would by working out for an hour or two.
ES: What are some exercises to target belly fat?
LS: It's really, really hard to "spot tone"--doing a thousand crunches a day isn't going to do anything for reducing unwanted belly fat. What works is a mix of cardio (that is the part that burns fat, and as mentioned above, it's better to add variation and intensity to your cardio routine--slogging it out on the elliptical isn't going to cut it for very long) and strength training. That said, a strong core is key to all over fitness, including in the belly region, so I recommend people focus on planks (and all the variations within those--there are hundreds!).
ES: How important is diet to dealing with excess weight?
LS: Diet is always important; it's just as important as exercise. I never advocate "going on a diet," but swapping healthy foods and preparations for unhealthy ones, as well as portion control and cutting down on sugars (including even stuff that's labeled "whole grain" or "gluten free") goes a long way in overall health and fitness. It doesn't matter if you work out three hours a day if your diet doesn't follow suit.
ES: Any tips for avoiding holiday weight gain?
LS: Don't let the holidays be an excuse to step out of normal behavior. Bring your workout clothes home and make sure to get exercise in. (When there's a lot of snow on the ground at home in Buffalo, I run stairs in my mom's house and do core work on a towel in the living room!)
The same goes for eating. Enjoy your big meals, but fill up on salads and veggies and lean meats, not appetizers and dessert. Also, pick your poison(s): if you want to have a few glasses of wine, skip the slice of pie. Finally, keep portion size in mind. If you really want those buttery mashed potatoes or stuffing, make sure to just take a half serving. You will still enjoy it without being painfully full!
Want a way to keep track of your progress? Check out our slideshow of top fitness apps above and the YouTube video from Uplift below for inspiration!