Running Burns Belly Fat, but It Comes Down to This 1 Important Thing, According to an Expert

Not sure where to begin if your goal is to lose belly fat? You're not alone. There isn't a set prescription to reduce the fat stored around your stomach, but there are a few expert-approved things you can do.

The first is to stop trying to spot-reduce belly fat. Spot reduction is essentially trying to reduce the amount of fat you have on a specific area of your body. We know it sounds simple, but it's not possible because you can't control where you'll lose fat — that's up to your genes and your individual body to decide. Instead, in order to lose fat, you should begin to do things like strength training, because it requires a large energy expenditure, which leads to burning more calories and, as a result, fat.

Another style of training that has become synonymous with burning fat is cardio, specifically running. To find out if running can actually help you burn belly fat, and fat in general, POPSUGAR spoke to Rondel King, MS, CSCS, an exercise physiologist at NYU Langone's Sports Performance Center.

How to Start Losing Belly Fat
Getty | svetikd

How to Start Losing Belly Fat

"You can't spot-train belly fat, because fat is not something that you can necessarily train," Rondel told POPSUGAR. However, according to Rondel, "If you take more of a global approach — as far as total body fat — then you will see some reduction in your overall body composition, in addition to your belly fat."

Wondering what Rondel means by taking a global approach to losing fat? Essentially, it's doing things like full-body workouts to reap the most benefits. For example, Rondel said people think crunches will help reduce belly fat, but "it doesn't necessarily work like that." According to Rondel, "While you're working the muscles under the fat, you won't necessarily gain a global benefit."

Instead, he recommends doing full-body movements like deadlifts and challenging big muscle groups with compound exercises like squats. As a result, you'll exert more energy, utilize more energy (aka calories), and boost your metabolism, and "it will help you lose that unwanted belly fat."

Does Running Burn Belly Fat?
Getty | GregorBister

Does Running Burn Belly Fat?

If running six miles sounds like your type of workout or you're just wondering if you need cardio, here's what you should know: "Running does help with weight reduction," but there's a caveat: it really depends on the person. Running can help some individuals lose belly fat, but others may find it hard to lose belly fat.

Because you're expending energy, according to Rondel, "Any type of movement that you do uses up energy, and as a result it can turn into weight loss." As we touched on earlier, this can be belly fat, fat in your legs, your arms — it's out of your control.

If you aren't sure if you should do steady-state cardio or interval training like sprints, Rondel said, "Both methods have their place in your exercise program." Once again, it depends on how your body responds to running. If you're deconditioned, you may have to started with easy, steady-state cardio to build up an aerobic base, Rondel explained. For someone who already has an aerobic base, Rondel said they should be able to progress to high-intensity interval training.

If you want to burn fat and see results, Rondel recommends doing two to three days of strength training and five to six days of cardio per week. For your cardio, Rondel said you could break it up and do two steady-state sessions and two HIIT sessions a week.

This information is great to know, but you'll also have to make sure you're eating the right fuel in order to start seeing changes. Here's a clean-eating plan to get you started.

If you're ready to start burning fat and build muscle, try this four-week workout plan.