‘How can I lose belly fat?’ is one of the most searched phrases on the internet and, once those words are entered, it gives rise to endless ads popping up in your social media and site surfing.
Here at jogger.co.uk we are all about running so also face repeated questions demanding to know if running can help shed belly fat.
So, here’s the quick answer: ‘Yes’.
But, we wouldn’t like to lead you down a false alley without providing a more complete answer so here it is: ‘yes and no’.
What? That hasn’t cleared it up? Fair enough, here’s the full answer.
Can running help you lose belly fat?
To a large extent, losing weight can be simplified by thinking of it as a balancing act. If you consume more energy than you expend you will put weight on, and vice versa.
This is good news for runners because it means that if you continue to eat the same amount (assuming you are not actively gaining weight prior to day one) after you start a new running regime then you will start to lose weight.
Diet is a huge part of this and no amount of training will overcome a truly bad diet laden with processed foods and high levels of sugar.
But is running, when coupled with a decent diet, enough on its own?
Cardio exercise – the meat and drink of running – is not the best way to lose fat, especially as you get to the fine margins that are the spare tyre or the muffin top.
The best fat-burners are the higher intensity interval workouts in which you really up your heart rate to an 8 or even 9 out of ten as opposed to the 6 out of ten of steady running.
Dr Stephen Boutcher at the University of New South Wales in Australia conducted a lengthy study titled ‘High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise (HIIE) and Fat Loss’. His study clearly demonstrated that HIIE resulted in a reduction in body fat in ‘normal’ and ‘slightly overweight’ young men and women.
So, for runners, that is stepping up the interval training that will get you seriously out of breath. A session per week of 400m repeated eight times with a restful slow jog of 90s in between is a good way to achieve this and, as a bonus, is likely to make you significantly quicker as well.
You can vary intervals by including pyramid sessions – increasing time of hard effort from one minute, to two minutes, to three minutes, to four minutes and then coming back down again. Each time put one minute of slow jog in to recover.
So now we have cardio and a good diet to help lose initial weight and intervals to burn off excess fat. Add in to that some strength and conditioning exercises and you will go even further.
Planks, crunches, squats, lunges, and all of their equally challenging little friends are fantastic for changing body shape but tightening muscles which are, after all, attached to the outer layer of fat.
None of these things will work overnight and it is best to think of 12 weeks as the first point where you might expect to see a significant change. But, even further than that, we are talking about a long-term lifestyle change so up the intensity gradually and be patient.
Strength and Conditioning Workout for Running
Go gentle in the first couple of week to acclimatise your body. Gradually increase the number of repetitions or length of hold to step up the challenge.
Why? Improves shoulder strengths and works the core
How? Sit in front of a bench or step facing away from it with your feet stretched in front of you. Place both hands securely on the bench and left yourself up before lowering yourself. Complete 8 -12 reps.
Why? Improves posture and strengthens abdominals, obliques and glutes.
How? Plant your hands directly under the shoulders as if you’re about to do a push-up. Ground the toes into the floor and squeeze the glutes to stabilise the body. Your head should be in line with your back. As you get more comfortable with the move, hold your plank for as long as possible without wobbling or gasping.
Why? Strengthens hips, glutes, quads, and hamstrings
How? Stand with feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart, with your hips over knees, and knees over ankles. Hold your arms out straight in front so they are parallel with the ground. Lower your bottom towards the floor while keeping your back and chest upright, when you reach your lowest point raise back up again.
Why? Works the abs, glutes, quads, and shoulders and improves hill climbing strength
How? Get into the classic push-up position and, in turn, bring one leg forward. As get more used to the exercise you can go faster.
Why? Makes the key running muscle – the calf – stronger while also performing a stretch.
How? Stand with the balls of your feet on the edge of a step. Lower your heels and then raise them up as high as they will go. As you progress you can do this with one leg for additional balance.
Why? Strengthens your glutes, stretches hip flexors and improves single leg balance
How? Stand with your feet about a shoulder width apart, take a step forward, and bend the front knee until your rear leg almost touches the ground. The length of the step forward can be increased to add difficulty.