4 Reasons Men Should Blast Belly Fat
Call it your beer belly, your pot, your breadbasket, your bay window, your spare tire or good old middle-aged spread, but if you’re carrying extra weight around your gut – even if you’re not very overweight overall – you could be in danger of serious health problems. It could affect your heart, your bones, your knees…and your sex life.
Visceral fat, as doctors call abdominal obesity, is a particularly menacing type of fat located deep under the muscle tissue in the abdominal cavity surrounding the abdominal organs. “Women tend to put on weight in their hips and thighs, but when men put on weight, it tends to go right to the gut,” says Jim White, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and an American College of Sports Medicine-certified health fitness specialist.
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Here, four good reasons to blast away belly fat, and how to do it best.
1. Your heart Wrap a tape measure around your middle at about the level of your belly button. Don’t pull too tightly. If your waist measures over 40 inches (or 35 inches for a woman), you are at increased risk of unhealthy levels of blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, and pre-diabetes, according to the American Heart Association. Visceral fat is strongly associated with insulin resistance (an inability of the body to use insulin to convert food into energy) and high levels of triglycerides (a type of dangerous fat in blood). Excess visceral fat has also been linked with increased risk for heart disease including upping your risk for heart attack and stroke.
2. Your bones In men, more belly fat can equal weaker bones, according to a Harvard study presented at a recent meeting the Radiological Society of North America. The researchers did CT scans to take abdominal fat and muscle measurements in men with an average age of 34 and to measure bone strength in forearm bones. They found that overall body mass index (BMI) and age didn’t play into how strong the men’s bones were, but that belly fat did. The more belly fat a man had, the lower his score on tests of bone strength. In contrast, the higher his scores on muscle mass measures, the stronger his bones were.
3. Your joints and back Your back aches and your knees are weak? Blame your belly fat. That extra weight in front of your body puts pressure on your back, possibly leading to back strain and pain. And every extra pound around your belly puts an extra four pounds of pressure on your knees with every step you take – or an extra 4,800 pounds for every mile you walk. The good news? Losing 11 pounds reduces your risk of knee arthritis by 50 percent, according to data from the Framingham Heart Study.
4. Your sex life Don’t let your big belly come between you and your significant other! Being overweight raises your risk of restricted blood flow to the penis, making erectile dysfunction more likely. Belly fat can lower your levels of the sex hormone testosterone, too. “Testosterone, which is made in the testicles, is broken down in the fat cells of the body, but particularly in belly fat,” says Harry Fisch, M.D., author of the book, The Male Biological Clock: The Startling News About Aging and Fertility in Men and clinical professor of urology and reproductive medicine at Weill-Cornell Medical College in New York. “Studies show the bigger the waist, the lower the testosterone.”
The best way to get rid of belly fat? Lose weight overall. “You can’t spot reduce. Unfortunately just doing a lot of stomach crunches alone isn’t going to do it,” says White. He recommends a three-pronged approach:
- Exercise at least 30 minutes every day
- Practice weight training a couple days a week
- Eating a healthy diet.
Do all three and you will slim down your midsection and reduce your health risks. “Vary your activities – swim one day, jog another, play tennis or golf on a third, for example,” says White. “That will not only to help you lose visceral fat but will reduce exercise boredom and overuse injuries, and help you get in shape overall.” Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise plan to make sure increased physical activity is safe for you, and if it is, get moving!
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Laura Flynn McCarthy is a New Hampshire-based writer who specializes in health and parenting topics.