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#1 Mistake to Avoid When Trying to Burn Belly Fat

Is this workout backfiring for your belly?
FACT CHECKED BY Christopher Roback

Is the only way to lose fat and get fit to do really, really high-intensity exercise? Hard NO, says influencer Marlene Aymone (@fitbylena), who swears by a completely different way to get into shape. Aymone's method will not be a surprise to anyone who prefers a slower, more intense method of working out—but does the science back Aymone's method? Yep! So what exactly does this fitness influencer recommend to burn fat, and keep it off? Read on.


She's Not Here For Sprints

@fitbylena If you're looking to burn BELLY FAT, reduce BODY FAT: DO NOT RUN SPRINTS. Instead walk slowly at a challenging incline that allows you to breathe properly and/or get on the stairmaster and follow a steady pace that allows you to breathe! Always monitor your heart rate and make sure that you stay between ZONE 2-3! You can use google to compute all 5 of your heart rate zones! Sprints cause excessive stress on the body! In a short amount of time your body has to (1) exert so much effort quickly to make sure you can do the sprint, (2) create energy super fast while (3) you can barely CATCH YOUR BREATH! As a response to this stress and lack of oxygen because sprinting is an anaerobic (without oxygen) exercise, your brain tells your adrenal glands ( which sit above your kidneys): Yo! Fam! She could be dying! Send me some help fassst! So the adrenal says: I got you! Yo! Cortisol run me a whole batch! That cortisol is the gatekeeper of belly fat! That stubborn visceral fat that's all up in your belly!! Now you didn't mean to instigate the situation by running your little sprints. I mean you see them all over Instagram and the ladies who do it seem so strong! Sure! But do you both have the belly outline? No! You can't have a protruding belly ( be insulin resistant) and workout like a person with leveled insulin. Yes! Running sprints looks cool..,but it's counterproductive in the reduction of belly fat. If your belly looks like mine, we need to stay in our AEROBIC lane. Meaning, the cardio we do should still allow us to breathe! Yes! Breathe! Did you know that FAT is released through BREATHING? So the more aerobic ( the more oxygen you can get through exercise) the more belly fat you'll burn and the less cortisol you'll produce. This is why WALKING WORKS FOR FAT LOSS! Especially if you can do it for 1 hour or more. Slow steady cardio gives your body time to convert FAT into energy because the exercise is not as demanding, stressful and short. It's long, well paced with low stress. #weightloss #weightlossprogress #weightlossinspo #weightlosschallenge #beforeandafter #cardio #steadystatecardio #bellyfat #stairmastercardio ♬ Kitty Kat Money (Mashup) – Ombre2Choc Remix

Aymone says high-intensity sprinting causes a spike in her cortisol, a stress hormone which can lead to excess fat accumulation around the belly. Research shows that stress and belly fat are linked. "We found that women with greater abdominal fat had more negative moods and higher levels of life stress," Elissa S. Epel, PhD, told Yale News. "Greater exposure to life stress or psychological vulnerability to stress may explain their enhanced cortisol reactivity. In turn, their cortisol exposure may have led them to accumulate greater abdominal fat."


Stairmaster Workouts

Cropped up photo shot young strong skinny sporty athletic sportswoman woman in white sportswear warm up train run on a treadmill climber stairs machine in gym indoor Workout sport motivation concept

Aymone prefers slower, more intense workouts on the Stairmaster, keeping her heart rate in the "fat burning" zone. But why not have the best of both worlds? "The best way to burn fat is to have a longer aerobic activity with intervals of high intensity sprinting so that your heart rate reaches 70 to 80% of its maximum several times during your aerobic activity," says James Kojian, MD. "This is also referred to as HIIT training, high intensity training sprinkled into your workout every 5 to 10 minutes. This will get you into the fat-burning zone as well." 

Related: Lose and Extra 5 Pounds Per Month by Eliminating These 3 Things From Your Diet


Incline Workouts

Woman using incline threadmill in modern gym. Incline threadmills are used to simulate uphill walking or running and deliver additional workout benefits to users.

Aymone also recommends using a treadmill to walk slowly on an incline. "When we approach cardiovascular training, we want to exercise in a way that assures the least amount of additional stress is placed on the joints, facilitating better recovery while still allowing for better cardiovascular health. Incline walking is the best of both worlds," personal trainer Chance Ruggeroli tells Texas Health.


Are Your Workouts Causing Belly Fat?


So can running or other high intensity exercises cause belly fat? Experts say belly fat is much more likely to be linked to poor sleep, an unhealthy diet, or poor stress management. In other words: If you love to run, run! Manage your stress and keep your cardio sessions, if that's what makes you happy. On the other hand if you thrive on lower intensity workouts, keep that up. Just move. That's what's working for Aymone!

Related: 10 of the Worst Mistakes Experts Admit They Made While Trying to Lose Weight


So What Does Cause Belly Fat?

closeup woman hand smoking cigarette ,unhealthy lifestyle concept

It's highly unlikely that high-intensity exercise by itself causes belly fat. According to the Mayo Clinic, belly fat is linked to factors such as smoking, a poor diet, stress, poor sleep, and a sedentary lifestyle. So how much belly fat is too much belly fat? For women, it's more than 35 inches around the waist. 

💪🔥Body Booster: Manage stress and adopt healthy habits to beat belly fat. If you want to run, run!

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more
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