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Belly fat isn't just stubborn, can be dangerous

Posted at 3:02 PM, Apr 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-19 20:25:30-04

Belly fat can be a problem for a lot of people. Whether you can't seem to get your tummy to tighten post-baby or your family seems to have a history of guts, it can be a stubborn area to get fit. 

Unfortunately, experts say it can be worse and potentially more dangerous than excess fat around your hips and thighs. 

"It is riskier than maybe the fat you're going to see down in the leg area because it is closer to those vital organs," according to CHI Health Registered Dietician Kaitlyn Hemmingson. 

People with belly fat tend to have worse cholesterol putting them at risk for heart attacks and stroke, and they also have a higher risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. 

Hemmingson says you should focus on plant-based foods from the ground like fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Processed foods can actually mislead your brain, "Foods high in fats, sugar and salt tend to trigger the reward system of the brain which actually makes you eat more even if you're physically full."

A recent study showed people who eat breakfast are 40 percent less likely to develop belly fat.  

So what is too much belly fat? As a general rule of thumb, experts say women should aim for a waist circumference of less than 35 inches. Men should try to hit less than 40 inches for a waist measurement. 

In addition to eating right, getting a good night's rest and trying to keep stress in check is important. So is exercise.

Julie Cobos is a Supervisor of Clinical Fitness at CHI Health. She says don't be deterred if a larger midsection seems to run in the family. 

"You can always work and you can always get rid of it, just because you were dealt that card in life doesn't mean you can't work and prevent some of those risk factors," Cobos said.

She doesn't recommend going crazy about crunches but says focus on a full body workout. You can then target problem areas. She recommends calculating your Target Heart Rate and making sure your workouts hit this level if you're looking to lose weight. A rough estimate is trying to hit 30 minutes of activity in that range but that varies by person and what your goals are. 

Cobos also says high intensity interval training has proven effective for losing weight and adding muscle. That is when a person goes all out in a workout such as a burpee for 20 seconds, takes a 10 second rest and then repeats a few times. That said, Cobos recommends people do what interests them and keeps them motivated when it comes to physical fitness. 

Here's a list of exercise classes offered through CHI Health Wellness Center at Immanuel. 

For more information about belly fat, check out this article