If you’re currently trying to lose weight, or simply moving towards a healthier lifestyle, you are most likely trying to implement a daily system of dieting and exercising. If you aren’t, let this be a sign that you probably should! Dieting and exercising are two keys to weight loss, and when done together, can be extremely effective in helping you achieve your personal goals.

However, just like you need to orient your meals towards weight loss, you also need to direct your workout routine to do the same.

Some people, like body builders or football line-men, aim to gain weight, and they eat very high amounts of calories while mainly lifting for strength, which does not burn many calories. Inversely there are others, like marathon runners, that aim to lose or sustain weight, and they can burn thousands of calories daily while eating only a fraction of that back.

You are most likely not a marathon runner, nor am I, so I am certainly not advocating to train at an elite level right away. Despite this, if you want to lose fat, you want to take after their general habits, as their system of exercise burns high amounts of calories daily, and will help ordinary people like you and I burn belly fat.

But, what’s the best exercise to lose belly fat? How are they able to burn so many calories? As a matter of fact, it is not one specific exercise, but one specific TYPE of exercise that is highly effective in burning calories. This is any workout that will raise your heart rate.

To a certain extent, the higher you are able to get your heart rate while working out, the more calories you will burn at that time.

treadmill

Get Your Heart PUMPIN

When you workout, blood is required to flow through your body at a faster rate than when it is a rest. This is because you are expending oxygen from your blood stream at a faster rate, so your oxygen rich blood (located in the heart) needs to circulate faster to replenish the amount of oxygen in your bloodstream.

This higher rate of blood circulation is the definition of a higher heart rate. Your heart pumps faster to be able to accomplish a higher rate of circulation.

What does that mean for you? Well, like any muscle or system in your body, it takes more energy for your heart to be able to pump blood faster, and also keep in mind that a calorie is a unit to measure energy. So by getting your heart to pump faster you are expending more energy, which is synonymous for burning calories.

However, you do not want to aimlessly raise your heart rate, because this can be both ineffective and potentially dangerous. There are different heart rate zones that will produce different effects, some of which you desire others that you don’t.

The Different Zones

There are 5 basic heart rate zones that can be achieved through exercise, each with their own pros and cons. There are many different names that these zones can be called, but to keep things simple today I will label the 5 zones as very light, light, moderate, hard, and maximum effort. (kind of unintuitive naming, I know, but it is just for simplicity’s sake).

Each zone is determined based off of a percentage of your maximum heart rate. If you do not know your maximum heart rate, which is not a common fact to know, just subtract your age from 220. It is not essential to be perfectly accurate, a heart-rate-zonesgeneral idea of your maximum heart rate will suffice.

Specific times and places call for each heart rate zone, and there are many benefits to be reaped from each (I plan to write more extensively on this and will post the link here). However, for today’s purpose of burning fat, there is only 1 zone that you need to be concerned with.

The Fat Burning Zone

The fat burning zone is absolutely instrumental for weight loss. This is the zone that will target fat as an energy source, as opposed to targeting other sources like stored carbohydrates or proteins.

To be in the fat burning zone, one’s heart rate must be around 70% of their maximum heart rate. This is the line between the light and moderate zones, and of course it’s hard to get exactly 70% percent, so generally anywhere between 65-75% of your maximum heart rate can be considered in the fat burning zone.

In the fat burning zone, it will not be that hard to maintain any exercise if you have a decent level of fitness. I like to say that you should be “comfortably uncomfortable”, meaning that it is going to be a bit challenging, but you should not be gasping for air, and at the end you should feel like you could keep continuing if you needed to.

Another question you might have is, why should I aim to be in the moderate zone when I could be aiming for the hard or maximum effort zones; wouldn’t that burn more calories? Yes, but actually no. Yes because you are technically burning calories at a higher rate, but no because you will not be able to sustain that activity that puts you in the harder zones for a long enough period. Exercises in the fat burning zone burn calories at a slightly slower rate, but you can also sustain them for much longer, which is why overall these exercises are the best to burn fat.

Everyone has different experiences and feels different effects while working out, but if you can keep “comfortably uncomfortable” in your head while working out, it can be an easier indication of what zone you are in as opposed to constantly monitoring your heart rate.

Now, you know what your heart rate should be and how you should be feeling, but what are the exercises that you need to do to get there?

A little Mo Cardio

Cardiovascular exercises, or cardio for short, gets a bad rep. If you’re just skimming weight loss articles or Facebook pages they will tell you to steer clear from cardio and focus on weight lifting. It’s true that weight lifting should be implemented to your exercise schedule to build muscle and help body composition, but cardio will be your foundation that will burn the majority of your calories.

To demonstrate this, consider a 150 pound woman. If she spends 10 minutes weight lifting she will, on average, burn 45 calories. However, the same woman can spend 10 minutes jogging, and she will burn 100 calories.

By engaging in cardiovascular exercises, you can burn almost double the amount of calories in the same amount of time.cross-country

This is the reason why in high school, when I was on the cross-country team, it was HARD for me to put weight on. Can you imagine?! My team and I would eat thousands and thousands of calories, but at the end of the day we would still look like, “noodle boys” as some people liked to call us.

Now, obviously if you are just beginning to lose weight you probably don’t have the endurance to do cardio for enough time to burn thousands of calories, but as you workout more and progress, you will be able to strengthen your cardiovascular system so that you can burn more calories at a time.

Do not misinterpret the message I am sending out though; cardiovascular exercise is merely a foundation to burn calories, but there are other supplemental exercises that you should be doing. Weight lifting is also essential because it replaces the fat you are burning with muscle. Also, it will help you prevent overuse injuries while performing cardiovascular exercises (which I have experienced many times when I was a runner).

Overall, cardio will help keep you in calorie deficit and help you to build a good base for your fitness. It will make your heart stronger and burn large amounts calories, making it the best exercise to lose belly fat.

Best Cardio Workouts

Hopefully I have sold you on the idea of cardiovascular training, now it’s time to identify some of the highest calorie-burning exercises in this arena. Here is a bulleted list of some of the best and easiest cardio workouts that you can do today.

  • Running
  • Swimming
  • Biking
  • Jumping Rope
  • Eliptical Machine
  • Rowing (there are machines)
  • Stair Climber
  • Cross Country Skiing (kind of uncommon but highly effective)

swimming

These are just some ideas to point you in the right direction. It is not necessarily important what exercise you are doing, just remember to try to stay in that fat burning heart rate zone. It is also a good idea to do exercises that you enjoy, and that you can sustain for longer periods of time.

My personal favorite is running, because I have a history doing so, and I can pretty comfortably go for a nice 40-60 minute run (after months of getting myself back into shape), but I can only swim for 1-3 minutes without needing a break.

My point is that neither exercise is better than the other in terms of amount of calories burned, so I obviously stick to running because I enjoy it more and I can sustain it for a longer period. Make sure to give anything you do a solid chance to see if it is worth continuing, but if you are really struggling with a certain exercise, stop doing it and try another exercise that you can sustain more easily and for longer.

How to measure heart rate

The last question I am yet to address is, how can you measure your heart rate? People are not set with a gauge or internal clock that tells them what their heart rate is at all times (although that would be cool).

The easiest way to measure your heart rate, in my experience is with a smart watch or fit bit. I personally have an Apple Watch, and it’s the best thing ever when it comes to tracking my fitness. There is a health app that shows me my heart rate at all different times throughout the day, and it syncs to my phone so I can download that data and analyze it as needed.

I know that there are many other reliable watches that can track heart rate, like fit bit or garmin watches that have similar features.

I will admit, some can be quite pricey, but if you are serious about your fitness and want to start working out and losingapple-watch weight, a fitness tracking watch can be well worth your money. Plus it will give you incentive to work out so the money you spent on the watch won’t go to waste.

If, for whatever reason, you do not want or cannot afford a fitness tracking watch, there is still a way to manually track your heart rate. Start by finding your pulse, either by your wrist or directly under your jaw bone. Start a 15-30 second timer and count the number of beats you feel throughout that time. Then take that number and multiply it by 4 or 2 to find out your beats per minute.

If you are trying to find your heart rate in the middle of a workout, I recommend stopping when you feel like your heart rate is not rising anymore and do this technique.

Coming into a workout, you should already know your target heart rate to be in the fat burning zone, so use your mid workout readings, either by watch or though counting, to adjust accordingly.

There is nothing wrong with manually tracking your heart rate, but it can be quicker, easier, and more accurate to use a fitness tracker. The more accurate your data is, the better you will be able to adjust your workouts to benefit yourself, and the better your health will become in return.

Get Movin’

At the end of the day, it does not matter if you know what your perfect workout is, or if you have the perfect plan to help you lose weight, it matters if you execute it.

It is better to follow through on a terrible plan that you need to tweak and fix a million times before it is suited for you than it is to have a perfect plan that you do nothing with.

Dieting and exercising requires lots of trial and error, so you cannot expect to just go out and be and expert. Only a small portion of your learning can be done online, but the majority of it needs to be learning and experiencing what works and what doesn’t in person.

The question, “what is the best exercise to lose belly fat?” is a terrible question. There is a different answer for every single person, but fortunately you can now narrow down what type of exercise is best.

go-get-success

Today, take action on the information you’ve gained. Lace up your shoes and go for a run. Find a local pool and go for a swim. Uncover your old elliptical or treadmill and put in some time. Anything that you can do is a start and it will help you begin your journey towards a healthy lifestyle.

As always, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please leave them on this post I will be more than happy to hear from you. And if you have any good cardiovascular exercises, share them in the comments! Community feedback is always valuable, not just for me, but for everyone reading!

Keep moving forward,

Joe

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20 Responses

  1. What is the best exercise to lose belly fat, this is so perfect for me right now, after not doing a lot of exercise with this lockdown that we are gradually getting out of from the Coronavirus pandemic. I do have heart disease since my heart attack in 2012, but I am a regular exerciser and do challenge my heart rate, but my doctor does not want me to go to extremes with workouts. What do you think the best workout for me would be to lose some belly fat that I just gained over the last two months or so. I have a resting heart rate of about 68 to 70 since my HA, and when I do work out I get it to be around 98 to 102, do you think this is sufficient to burn calories, while watching my diet?

    I am unable to run do to a deteriorating right foot, but I do ride my bike a lot, it seems to work for me and my doctor seems to be happy with the strength it builds not only in my legs but my arms as well. I think that I am seriously going to look into a fitness tracking watch, I didn’t see a link to get such a watch, maybe I missed it but if you could send me one that would be great. 

    Thanks again Joe for a great article on What’s the best exercise to lose belly fat.

    Bobbi

    • I’m glad you enjoyed, Bobbi. You truly are a warrior, there has been so much that has happened to you in your life that had the potential to break your spirits, but I can see that you cannot be broken!

      Because of your condition, I would consult a doctor before changing anything in your workout routine; raising your heart rate too much could be detrimental. If you are looking for low impact exercises, you can never go wrong with biking. Maybe even throw in some sprints (on the bike) once and a while to get a more intense workout. You might also be interested in swimming/ aqua jogging if you have access to a pool as it will not stress your foot.

      As for the watches, I am compiling a review of all different brands, but for now the watch I use is the Apple Watch Series 4 which I love. The health app gives me data like heart rate and step count, and also allows me to download apps like Strava or Map my Run which I use to track my runs.

      I hope this helped a bit more, and good luck with your workouts in the future! 

  2. I am happy to have found this article, because I have been struggling for years now with belly fat. When reading it,it seems I really need to raise my heartrate to be able to loose weight. Do you have any reviews on which could be the best fitness watches that I can buy on the internet ? And of course also the most reliable and a good price/quality ratio. Thanks !

    Kind regards,

    Lizzy

    • I’m so happy you enjoyed, Lizzy. Losing belly fat is a common problem that many people experience, but there are always ways to attack it! 

      Many people have commented on the different fitness watches and there are so many great brands out there. I did not want to delve too deep into this topic in this post because there is so much to be said and I did not want to derail from my main idea, but I am currently working on a review that compares many of the top brands.

      The watch I currently have is the Apple Watch Series 4, which can be a bit pricey but it is excellent and of the highest quality. Hope this helps more!

  3. You have provided a lot of very useful information here for losing weight in general. Does all of this apply no matter the age of the person? It seems like the older you get, the less likely you can do a lot of these cardio exercises. And I wonder about lifting heavy weights as you get older. Would you recommend lower weights and higher reps for older people?

    I think if most people trying to lose weight just eat to achieve a decent calorie deficit, they won’t need quite as much exercise and they will slowly achieve the weight loss they are looking for.

    Thanks for this useful information.

    • You raise a great question, Curtis. You technically do not need to exercise to lose weight, or inversely you do not need to necessarily diet either. As long as you are in calorie deficit, it does not really matter how you get there, you will lose weight. However there are benefits to both dieting and exercising that will lead to a better overall lifestyle. Exercising helps build muscle, improves heart health, and countless other benefits; along with dieting that provides your body with enough energy to function at little to no expense. It is my strong recommendation that everyone should try to implement a system of diet and exercise to preserve their health, but it is not entirely necessary.

      As for your age, you have to know your limits. Age really is just a number when it comes to fitness, but you have to be aware of your personal capabilities so you do not injure yourself. Lower weights and higher reps usually equates to gaining endurance but not necessarily strength. It all depends on what you are capable of and what goals you have for the future. Whatever you do, just do not try to do too much too fast, or else you will have a high chance of injury.

      I wish you the best on whatever fitness journey you take in your life.  

  4. Hey, this article is of great use as currently I think I’m fat so could definitely need a few information on loosing weight. Exercises that raise your heart rate are the best in order to achieve the desired result whilst weight lifting is also good, I think it’s great if you are wanting to build muscles. Thanks for this article, it’s surely motivated me to go and try some of the recommended forms of exercises especially to tone down the belly fat.

    • Hey, Sariyah, I’m glad you could find value in my work. Ride that wave of motivation and go try out some new forms of exercise, I know you can do great things!

  5.  Swimming is my favorite , because I use all the muscles in the body and it is really good for my back as well. Biking is also great. I used to run a lot earlier, but had to stop because it was too hard for my back. It was great for the tummy fat. 🙂  Loved to read your article about the fat burning zone and how you can treack your heart rate. I must admit this is not something I usually do, but after reading your article I am sure I will remember to do it after next training.

    • Thanks for sharing, Hilde, I also love swimming and biking too! I still run, but sometimes, like you said, it puts too much stress on my body and I need another form of exercise. 

      Tracking your heart rate can be very valuable, it is always a good idea to know how your body is reacting to different workouts. I hope you can find value in tracking your heart rate in the future!

  6. Hi,

    Thanks very much for this one of the best articles I have read this year! 👏🏽👏👏🏻👏🏿

    You start first by giving your Reader the necessary encouragement to continue exercising, and the motivation to start doing so for those who are not exercising. One can add that obesity is on its own, without any accompanying conditions (called co-morbidities) an ILLNESS, which needs to be treated. Obesity, especially CENTRAL OBESITY characterised by a big waistline or plenty of belly fat, causes many deadly, chronic diseases of lifestyle because of the metabolic derangements caused by the belly fat.

    You then beautifully laid out the Science around the Heart Rate in relation to exercise and weight control. The well structured and easy-to-understand manner you have presented this Science, lays an excellent foundation for the next section, which is the core or subject of your article. Thanks for promising to come back to add the link to your future article – usually we remember to add links or refer to past articles.

    Thank you for “comfortably uncomfortable”, because many people have the misconception that exercise must hurt, really hurt, to be of any use. They say, “no pain, no gain”! But this is actually not true. And you have really hammered this message home.

    When you introduced the smart watches, I thought that’s where we were going to start eating? But I don’t see any affiliate links to that effect, not unless you are still preparing for the same!

    Thanks very much, congratulations and warmest regards.

    • Thank you so much, Teboho, your comment truly has made my day. I agree with you entirely that obesity is a big problem, especially in my country, America, but there are certainly things that can be done to avoid this.

      It is a pet peeve of mine when people say, “no pain, no gain” because working out does not have to be painful. There are times to push yourself and test your limits, but exercising should be fun and enjoyable, not painful.

      I am planning on writing a full review on different types of fitness tracking watches, but I did not have any links prepared for this post. My website is relatively new; I have so many ideas blossoming yet not enough time to publish them!

      Thank you again for your kind words, and I wish you the best in the future! 

  7. I agree that getting your heart pumping by running and doing other aerobic activities is a great way to lose weight. However what should one do if they want to do cardio but build muscle at the same time?

    I’ve heart hiit is real good. What are your thoughts about this kind of exercise? Also what forms of hiit do you recommend ?

    And if you don’t like doing hiit, what is your favorite cardio type exercise overall?

    • HIIT workouts are excellent once you have a standard base of cardiovascular and muscular strength. For this article I was mainly focusing on weight loss and burning fat, but to build muscle lifting weights is instrumental. 

      I do caution you though, with HIIT workouts, that they are much more intense and can lead to injury if overdone, so make sure you are properly recovering in between days that you do HIIT workouts, and also make sure that you do not attempt anything too intense before you have built up a solid foundation for your fitness.

      I love running the most, but there are different types of cardio HIIT workouts. For example, in high school, my track team would do 400m repeats on the track, which is a form of a HIIT workout. The workouts you do should be oriented towards your own fitness goals.

      I hope this helped, Michael, and good luck on all your workouts in the future! 

  8. To lose belly fat is a very difficult task for me. I have been trying for a long time. I thought to lose belly fat is to burn more calories. My belly fat still there even though I eat less and exercise more 🙂

    I never know that heart rate is a measure of burning fat. Thank you for the information. When I exercise, I will try to main my heart rate at the weight loss zone to burn more fat.

    • Burning fat can be tricky, but consistency is always a major key. I believe that if you are persistent with your routine, you will be able to attain success!

      Good luck implementing fat burning zone workouts into your routine, I know you will do great things through hard work, Christine!  

  9. Heloo, I must say a big thanks to you for sharing this informative article on what’s the best excercise to lose belly fat…. I so much love the way you structured this article, your explanation on fat burning zine really thought me alot, now I know how my heart rate should be and what excercises to actually engage in for fat burning. cardiovascular exercise is indeed the best type to engage in. 

    • Hello, Sheddy, thank you for your kind words! I’m glad you found value in my work, and good luck with your workouts in the future!

  10. most intriguing tips you have here on  the best exercises to lose belly fat.. a lot of people go through a lot of processes taking lot of medications than anything and even engaging in intermittent fasting just to lose belly fat but at the end there still seems to be more positive results… this keeps giving her I will give to a great change to losing belly fat, just keep to the tips and you will see positive results from it…

    thanks for sharing such an insightful tips on the best exercises to lose belly fat. I look forward to sharing it in my blog

    • I’m glad you enjoyed, Evans. It is true that many people make things a lot more complicated than they need to be. I hope my post was clarifying, and thank you for sharing it to your blog! All the best. 

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