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Ask the doctor: Battling belly fat

Q. I’ve noticed my belly getting larger in the last five years or so. I walk about half a mile every day and lift weights twice a week. I’ve cut back on big meals, but nothing gets rid of the belly fat.

A. Your problem is a common one. Unfortunately, there is no magical way to reduce fat around your middle. You’re already doing many of the right things—eating less, burning calories, and building your muscle mass.

Abdominal exercises are good but they do not target belly fat per se. You might try a workout that builds the muscles in your back, sides, pelvis, and buttocks, as well as tightens your abs. Strengthening these “core” muscles can enhance your balance and make your abdomen appear more muscular.

Core exercises can be done standing or lying down. Basic movements include sit-ups, abdominal crunches, leg lifts, squats, and lunges. As you get more adept, you can add equipment such as stability balls to vary your routine. (To learn more, see Core Exercises, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School, www.health.harvard.edu/core.) If you have a history of back pain, arthritis, or injuries, talk to your doctor about which exercises you can do. And if you experience pain while performing an exercise, stop what you are doing.

— Deepak L. Bhatt, MD, MPH
Editor in Chief, Harvard Heart Letter

Posted by: Dr.Health

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