Top Exercises for Belly Fat

Medically Reviewed by Dany Paul Baby, MD on April 25, 2023
8 min read

As people get older, it’s common to see an increase of belly fat build up along the waistline. This is usually because muscle mass decreases with age as fat increases. 

There are some health risks linked to excess belly fat, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Breathing problems
  • Heart disease

Because of these risks, it’s a good idea to try to control your belly fat. There are three types of belly fat: subcutaneous, intramuscular, and visceral. Subcutaneous fat is the layer of fat just under your skin. Intramuscular fat is found in your muscle fibers. Visceral fat is deep inside your belly and is the type that sits between your organs. Even if you have a normal weight and body mass index (BMI), too much visceral belly fat can still lead to a variety of health problems. 

There are many exercises out there, but not all are created equal when it comes to banishing belly fat. But scientists and doctors agree that adding physical activity to your daily routine is a great way to burn off unwanted belly fat. Here are some exercises for belly fat that you can try to help you slim down your waistline.

Aerobic or Cardio Exercise

Your first step in burning off visceral fat is including at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise or cardio into your daily routine. Studies show that aerobic exercises for belly fat help to reduce belly fat and liver fat.

Some great cardio of aerobic exercises for belly fat include:

  • Walking, especially at a quick pace
  • Running
  • Biking
  • Rowing
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Group fitness classes

When choosing a cardio activity, make sure it’s something that you enjoy doing. This way, you’re more motivated and will look forward to your exercise routine.

HIIT or Interval Training

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) and interval training are exercise routines that use short bursts of intense exercise mixed with lower-intensity moves and rest periods. Research shows that HIIT exercises for belly fat help control weight and improve your overall physical condition.

These routines don't take a lot of time but still get your heart pumping and work your entire body. Each routine has a selection of activities that include the following movements:

  • Pushing
  • Pulling
  • Squatting
  • Deadlifting
  • Loaded carries

Typically, a HIIT routine uses 30 seconds of intense activity, with 30 seconds of rest right after, before moving on to the next activity. The sequence can be repeated a few times to get the maximum benefit.

Some HIIT exercises that people of all fitness levels and ages can try are:

  • Jumping jacks
  • Burpees
  • Pushups
  • Jump squats
  • High knees

To get started, choose a handful of HIIT exercises for belly fat. Perform one activity for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds. Do the next activity, and then rest. When you finish all the activities, you can repeat the cycle a few more times.

Weight and Resistance Training

Weight training is also an important part of burning off belly fat. Since muscles burn off more calories than fat does when the body is at rest, having more muscle tone can help you to burn off more fat. Researchers have also found that resistance training, which includes weight training, can increase lean weight while decreasing fat, and it can boost metabolism at the same time.

Some weight training exercises for belly fat to include in your routine are:

  • Bicep curls
  • Lunges
  • Squats
  • Tricep kickbacks

With these exercises, you can do 12 repetitions with lighter weights, between 5 and 8 pounds. Another option is to use heavier weights with fewer repetitions and rest time between sets.

Because belly fat sticks to the waistline and stomach region, doing some abdominal exercises can help to combat it. They can help to tone and flatten the stomach while providing you with a good source of exercise.

These exercises are great for people of any age. Some abdominal exercises for belly fat that you can try at home include:

  • 60-second planks
  • Bicycle crunches
  • Abdominal crunches
  • Leg lifts

Lower Ab Workouts

The goal of these exercises is to target key parts of the lower abs and strengthen them to improve posture, stability, and balance in daily activity.

You can do most exercises to help lower abs without extra equipment. But some of the moves listed below do require sliders or towels.

1. Mountain Climbers

 Mountain climbers work your entire body as well as your core. They are a form of cardio as well, which means they increase your heart rate when you do them.

To get started, place yourself in a plank position. This means elevating your body off the ground with your arms (think of the “up” position of a pushup). Remember to keep your body straight and your pelvis tucked slightly. Your arms should be shoulder-width apart with both palms on the floor. Your legs should be extended behind you, feet together.

Once in this position, slowly move your right knee to your chest then back again. Next, draw your left knee to your chest and back again. This is one repetition (rep). 

Increase your pace and move quickly to exercise the rectus abdominis – a pair of muscles that run down your belly and form the bulk of the abdominal muscles. 

You should repeat this exercise several times for the best results. Professionals recommend 15 to 20 reps on each side for beginners.

2. Lying Leg Raises

This exercise strengthens your lower abs but doesn’t require you to hold yourself up while you do so. Instead, lie on your back with legs extended, feet together. Rest the palms of your hands on either side of your body.

Raise your legs up together slowly. Be sure they're perpendicular (at a right angle) to the floor for better results. Hold for 1 or 2 seconds before bringing both legs back down to the floor. Do this for 10 to 15 reps or more for best results.

If you want to make the exercise work better, don’t let your feet touch the ground. Also, be sure not to arch your back – it can lead to back problems if you do. If you have a bad back, consider talking to your doctor before starting this exercise.

3. Crunches

When people think of lower ab exercises, they often think of crunches. These low-impact exercises target both your upper and lower abs. They likely won’t help you lose weight because they don’t make you burn a lot of calories. But they're a good place to start if you want to strengthen your abs.

To do a standard crunch, begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the ground.

Slowly lift your shoulders off the ground, tucking your arms behind your head. Curl your upper body toward your knees, tightening your ab muscles as you lift up. Then lower back down to the ground. That's one rep.

Try to do 12 to 20 reps in a row. If it’s easy, continue. If it’s too difficult, start with fewer reps. If you’re feeling serious pain, stop. If pain continues for hours or days, talk to a doctor.

Other types of crunch exercises that are ideal for your lower abs include:

  • Reverse crunch
  • Bicycle crunch
  • Runner’s crunch
  • Bird dog crunch

4. Scissor Kicks

This exercise is similar to the lying leg raise workout. But you lift one leg at a time rather than both together.

Start by lying on your back with both of your legs extended, feet together. Rest your hands palms-down on either side of your body or underneath your buttocks for support. Lift your shoulder blades and head off the ground. Then, bring your legs up off the ground.

With your legs up, take turns lifting and lowering your legs, one after the other. Make sure your feet hover above the ground after you bring them down – about 6 inches.

You can repeat the exercise as many times as desired.

5. Knee Tucks (With Sliders or Exercise Ball)

For this exercise, you’ll need towels or sliders. Assume a plank position and place both of your feet on the towels or sliders.

Pull both knees to your chest and gradually move back to the starting position. Do this as many times as possible, or at least 10 times if you’re a beginner.

Avoid leaning your upper body forward too much or hunching your shoulders – this can lead to problems if done too much. 

If you want more of a challenge, you can use an exercise ball. Instead of placing your legs on sliders or towels, balance your legs on top of the ball. Draw both knees toward your chest and return to the starting point. 

6. Toe Touches

The toe touch is a great lower ab exercise for people who feel comfortable with beginner workouts and want more of a challenge. It uses parts of different lower ab exercises listed here as well, making it easy to transition into other lower ab exercises after completing this one.

Start by lying on your back on the floor, exercise mat, or towel. Your knees should be bent and your feet planted firmly on the ground. Rest your arms at your sides.

Stiffen your abdominal muscles. Try to keep them this way throughout the entire exercise. Next, bring your legs up off the floor, straightening them to be perpendicular to your body. Point your toes away from your body.

Then, lift your hands toward your toes, lifting your shoulders and head off the ground as you do so. Lower your hands and upper body back down. This is one rep.

Repeat this process several times, keeping your legs perpendicular to the floor and your abs tightening throughout the exercise.

While it’s important to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day, you don’t want to overtrain and push yourself too hard. Sometimes when you overtrain, your body can produce too much cortisol. This is a stress hormone that is linked to belly fat, so overtraining may actually make it harder to burn off belly fat. 

It’s important to remember to take new exercises slowly. If you feel sharp or prolonged pain, talk to your doctor or another health care professional, such as a physical therapist. Just keep in mind the recommendations for moderate regular exercise, and talk with your doctor if you have questions about how else your exercise routine can benefit your health.