We Asked an Expert How Long Your Workouts Should Be to Lose Belly Fat — Here's What She Said

If you want to reduce the amount of belly fat you have, you may be wondering what you need to do when it comes to your exercise routine. Contrary to popular belief, spot reduction doesn't work, and there isn't one perfect workout, exercise, or diet that will help you lose belly fat. There also isn't a perfect amount of time you have to exercise a day to lose belly fat, Leanna Ross, PhD, exercise scientist at Duke University, told POPSUGAR.

How Long Your Workouts Should Be to Lose Belly Fat
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How Long Your Workouts Should Be to Lose Belly Fat

"There's not a one-size-fits-all program for everybody and it's going to depend on what your outcome of interest is going to be," Dr. Ross said. Fitness is complex, and when it comes to changing your body composition, there isn't a simple calculation that will get you closer to achieving your goals, she explained. "Yes, you want to try to eat a more balanced meal — the timing of those meals is going to be important — and your exercise patterns are going to be important, but I can't give a specific prescription for a bunch of different people that's going to work the same on everybody," Dr. Ross said.

Generally speaking, Dr. Ross recommends beginning with the goal of being physically active three days a week for those who are currently sedentary. Once you've become consistent with physical activity three days a week, Dr. Ross recommends working up to training five days a week and following the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines For Americans.

These guidelines suggest adults do at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week. This is anywhere from three to five days of aerobic activity, such as running, riding a bike, and swimming, Dr. Ross explained. "Trying to incorporate muscle-strengthening or resistance exercises at least twice a week, too, is an excellent goal to try to work toward," she added.

These recommendations promote being more physically active and "emphasize moving more and sitting less," the article in the Journal of the American Medical Association states. Consider walking to work, going on a bike ride, running, or doing yoga.

Workouts That May Help You Lose Belly Fat
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Workouts That May Help You Lose Belly Fat

Most experts agree that the "best" workout to lose belly fat is one you enjoy and are willing to stick to. Specifically speaking, cardio workouts may help you burn belly fat because they tend to burn more calories than strength training, Jason Machowsky, RD, CSCS, a board-certified sports dietitian and exercise physiologist at the Hospital For Special Surgery's Tisch Sports Performance Center told POPSUGAR in a previous interview.

Strength training is also important because it can help you build muscle and improve your resting metabolic rate (how much calories/energy your body burns at rest) as a result. Because of this, "You'll essentially be burning more calories, and that can potentially lead to overall weight loss, which includes fat as well," Rondel King, MS, CSCS, an exercise physiologist at NYU Langone's Sports Performance Center told POPSUGAR in a previous interview.

To find out the style of training that enables your body to optimally burn fat, consider getting a FatMax Protocol test administered (these are typically done at specialized clinics). This test measures fat oxidation at various exercise intensities and will indicate the intensity level where your body burns the most fat.

Other Factors to Consider When Trying to Lose Belly Fat
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Other Factors to Consider When Trying to Lose Belly Fat

Although diet and exercise can help you lose body fat, there are other variables that may interfere with your ability to lose fat. Your sleep patterns, eating schedule, hormones, and stress levels all contribute to how you function and how your body stores and utilizes fat, Heather Milton, MS, RCEP, CSCS, an exercise physiologist clinical specialist at the NYU Langone Sports Performance Center told POPSUGAR in a previous interview.

It's important to note that you may not see results in a few days or a few weeks, but that doesn't mean that you should get frustrated or give up. "Even if you are not immediately seeing weight loss, your body is still undergoing these amazing changes and adapting to these new exercise habits," Dr. Ross said. "Exercise can be so beneficial for so many things even if you're not seeing an immediate drop in your body weight," she added.

Remember, these are general recommendations and if you're looking for something more individualized, "I would encourage someone to seek help from either someone that has expertise in the exercise area — whether that's a personal trainer or an exercise physiologist — [or] seek help from a registered dietitian if they need more specific nutrition counseling to reach their specific goal," Dr. Ross said.