You can’t spot reduce fat in your body, but you can tone and strengthen the muscles underneath, which will give your waist a more defined shape. That’s what this article is all about: how to get a smaller waist by burning belly fat and toning abs. There are two ways you can do this: burn off excess calories with exercise and eat better foods for healthier living.
First we’ll discuss what it takes to burn those calories off, then we’ll cover different types of exercises for toning up your abdominal muscles. Then we’ll talk about eating habits for better health and finally provide some meal planning tips so you know what good choices look like in an everyday diet plan.
What Are the Risks of Carrying Excess Fat Around Your Waist?
It’s not just your self-esteem that’s on the line when you carry excess weight around your waistline.
Fat, particularly visceral fat (the type of fat that surrounds and is stored in your abdominal organs), is linked to a number of diseases such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, certain types of cancer, and gallstones (4).
How Can You Get a Smaller Waist?
- Consume nutrient-dense, low-calorie foods such as whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables.
- Minimize your intake of processed foods, added sugars, and unhealthy fats.
- Incorporate core-strengthening exercises.
- Engage in cardiovascular activities, such as brisk walking, running, or swimming.
- Indulge occasionally. A realistic diet allows you to enjoy a treat here or there in moderation
- Be patient with your progress and be consistent to ensure long-term results.
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Exercises for a Smaller Waist
Exercises for a smaller waist involve including both cardiovascular and strength training exercises in your fitness routine.
Cardiovascular activities, such as brisk walking, running, or swimming, help burn calories and reduce overall body fat. At the same time, strength training exercises, particularly those that target the core muscles, contribute to a toned and defined midsection.
For your abs to show, you need to burn all the visceral fat in your midsection. The good news is that cardio workouts burn a lot of calories while working your body in a way that creates lean muscle (6).
If you want to trim your waistline and make it look smaller without doing ab exercises, you should consider adding some cardio exercises to your regimen. Here are four great options:
Particularly on stairs or bleachers, step-ups can help strengthen your glutes and calf muscles while also giving you an overall greater workout as they also incorporate the lower back and hamstrings (17). To do step-ups on stairs:
- Stand on the edge of one step with both feet together facing up the staircase.
- Place one foot firmly on it so that half your weight is leaning forward above the ground while you hold onto a railing for support.
- Push off the floor with your other foot and bring it up to the level of the stairs, then come back down.
- Do 3 sets of 12 reps for each leg.
Step-ups will help you burn more calories than jogging, but it’s important not to overdo this particular exercise as you’re pushing your weight above a certain limit that can cause severe damage to your bones if it is done incorrectly.
If you have access to a pool, swimming is another form of cardio exercise that targets the entire body while also building lean muscles, which makes it one of the best workouts for women who want a smaller waistline. It helps increase your heart rate without placing too much strain on your joints (12).
Walking Up a Flight of Stairs
For an everyday cardio workout, try taking the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible. Most people who live in high-rise buildings don’t even realize how many flights of stairs they climb daily because it’s just a routine to them.
By making a conscious effort to take the stairs every time you go somewhere, you’ll help reprogram your mind so that it associates climbing with burning calories.
If jogging is one of the best exercises for weight loss, walking is certainly up there too. Instead of focusing on intensive cardio exercises during your workouts, try low-impact ones such as walking to burn more calories (19).
While it doesn’t seem like you’re doing much, this type of exercise actually requires a good amount of strength in the legs and core muscles as it takes time for your body to adjust.
Strength Training Exercises
Once your cardio exercises have helped burn more calories than usual and your waistline has started to shrink, it’s time to incorporate some strength training into the mix to tighten up this area (t).
Women who are interested in getting a smaller waist should consider trying any one of these five moves:
Bicycle crunches are one of the best strength training exercises that target the abs, obliques, lower back, and even your hip flexor muscles (3). You can do this exercise just about anywhere, but it’s particularly effective if you do it on a mat.
- Start by lying on your back, legs extended straight toward the ceiling, and arms resting along the sides of your body.
- Bring both knees into your chest.
- Pretend you’re pedaling a bicycle by extending one leg while contracting your abs to curl up your spine at the same time.
- Do 12 reps for each side.
Russian twists are another great way to work on your obliques and lower back muscles. To do Russian twists:
- Sit with bent knees and your feet pressed firmly into the floor, holding your hands next to your chest.
- Sit back slightly, keeping your spine straight.
- Exhale as you twist to the left, punching your right arm over to the left side.
- Inhale back to center, and then perform for the opposite side.
Dumbbell Side Bend
The dumbbell is one of the most effective pieces of equipment for toning your obliques, particularly when it is used in conjunction with side bends. To do this exercise:
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with your knees slightly bent.
- Remaining upright with your back straight, lean at waist level toward whichever side you have the weight in your hand.
- Do 12 reps before switching sides.
Plank Hip Dips
Plank hip dips are great strength training exercises for getting a smaller waist (5). To do them, you’ll need to start in the plank position with your arms extended underneath your shoulders and your body lifted off the ground. To perform this exercise:
- In a low plank position, your body should be in a straight line, your elbows bent and beneath your shoulders, and your feet hip-width apart.
- Rotate your hips to the right and dip your body almost to the floor.
- Repeat on the other side. Continue alternating sides until you’ve completed one set.
Last but not least are squats, which are effective for toning your entire body while getting rid of excess fat, including that which is on or near the waistline.
Squats also help with weight loss by strengthening and toning muscles all over the body, which makes it easier for you to burn more calories during physical activities (10). To do this exercise:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with the toes pointed forward or slightly outward.
- Keep both knees in line with each toe throughout the movement while you push your hips back and bend at the knee joints until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
How to Eat for a Smaller Waist
To lose fat and tighten muscles, it’s important to eat a healthy diet. Reducing certain items in your diet can also help you reduce the circumference of your midsection. Here are some tips on how to eat for a smaller waist size.
Eat Healthy Fats
Fats are satiating and encourage the building of muscle (1). Some healthy fats include fish oil, flaxseeds, extra virgin olive oil, and avocado. They can be added to shakes or even used in cooking to add flavor without all the calories from fat.
Eat More Fibrous Vegetables
Vegetables that are high in fiber but low in calories are great for helping you achieve a smaller waist size (7). They include vegetables such as carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, and spinach. Fiber holds water, so these types of vegetables will help reduce bloat around the midsection.
Eat Protein for Every Meal
Protein is incredibly important as it preserves muscle mass while you lose weight. Eating protein for every meal will make it easier to maintain a strong core while you’re slimming (14).
Eat Whole Grains
Whole grains are another dietary staple when it comes to eating for a smaller waist size. The whole grain retains the outer layer that contains many essential nutrients. Foods containing whole grains include barley, brown rice, oatmeal, and quinoa.
Fresh Fruit is an Important Part of Your Diet
Fruits are high in fiber, so they keep you feeling full for longer than other carbohydrate sources. Other benefits of fruit include antioxidants, which may help prevent cancerous cells from growing in your body (7).
Eat Breakfast to Jumpstart Your Metabolism
Starting your day with a healthy breakfast will help you lose weight and prevent obesity as this jumpstarts your metabolism.
Studies have shown that people who eat breakfast every morning are less likely to be obese than those who do not eat it as they have an easier time controlling their hunger throughout the day (13).
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Drink Water Within 30 Minutes of Waking Up
Drinking water as soon as you wake up will kickstart your metabolism and get things moving through your digestive system for better bowel movements and reduced bloating (20). Start each day with 16 ounces of water.
If you wish, you can add some lemon to give it a little flavor. Drinking enough water every day may prove difficult for some, so be sure to add it slowly throughout the day.
Limit Eating Refined Grains
Refined grains, such as white bread and pasta, break down into sugar very quickly as they have been processed. Sugar increases insulin levels in the body, which can lead to increased fat storage around the stomach, hips, and thighs (15).
The best way of losing belly fat is by completely avoiding refined carbohydrates such as white breads and pastas or severely limiting them.
Limit Sugar Intake
Excess sugar causes insulin to increase, which leads to increased fat storage, particularly around the waist (15).
Not only should you cut out added sugar, you should also limit your intake of fruit juice as it has a high glycemic index and causes the same problems as refined sugars.
Cut Alcoholic Drinks
Consuming alcohol can cause an increase in belly fat due to consuming excess calories that are not burned off through exercise, which inhibits metabolism and causes water retention (2).
Limit Sugary Fruit Juices
Grapefruit, apple, pineapple, and orange juices all have a high glycemic index level as they contain a lot of sugar. Eating a diet that has a low glycemic index will help burn off excess fat around your stomach area without negatively affecting your strength training goals (8).
Control Your Portions
You should plan to consume six small meals a day instead of three large ones. This works by keeping your metabolism going all day long and prevents it from slowing down during a meal.
If you’re starting this plan, you should eat a little less than usual at every meal until you become accustomed to eating smaller amounts more regularly throughout the day.
You Can Eat What You Want Sometimes
As long as what you eat is nutritionally balanced with lots of protein and vegetables while limiting the amount of simple sugars and refined carbs, you can eat your favorite foods every now and then too.
Some good choices include brown rice, oats, and sweet potatoes. They offer much more nutritional value than sugary treats that only provide empty calories.
You won’t get smaller overnight and it will take time to lose weight and inches off your waist. Stick with the plan and you’ll be amazed by how quickly it works!
How can I lose 5 inches off my waist?
You can lose 5 inches off your waist by cleaning up your diet, controlling your portions, and committing to a weight loss workout for at least 2-3 years (9).
You didn’t gain those extra inches overnight, so you also won’t lose them overnight. It’s about making sustainable changes to your lifestyle, rather than quick fixes.
5 inches off your waist is a significant goal that requires consistency and patience.
The first step toward shedding those inches is adopting a healthy diet. This doesn’t mean you need to starve yourself or cut out whole food groups entirely. It actually means eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.
Portion control is key here and it’s important to remember that it’s not just about what you eat, but how much you eat (16).
Next comes exercise. Cardiovascular exercises, such as running or cycling, are great for burning calories and fat (6). However, don’t forget about strength training. Building muscle can help boost your metabolism, which makes it easier for you to lose weight (11).
Is your waist size genetic?
Waist size is influenced by both genetics and lifestyle factors. While some people may be genetically predisposed to carry more weight around their waists, lifestyle choices such as poor diet and lack of exercise can also play a significant role in waist size.
Which exercise is best for a slim waist?
The best exercise for a slim waist is any exercise that results in fat loss – there is no one specific exercise that targets weight loss in a specific area. Instead, you should focus on a combination of cardio and strength training to help decrease overall body fat, including that around the waist.
In addition, exercises that target the core muscles, such as planks and Russian twists, can also help create a more defined waistline.
Can the treadmill reduce belly fat?
Yes, regular treadmill workouts can help reduce belly fat. Cardiovascular exercises are effective for burning calories and fat, and this can lead to a decrease in belly fat.
To see results more quickly, you should increase the intensity of your treadmill workouts or incorporate interval training. However, it’s important to remember that spot reduction is not possible, so while the treadmill can help reduce overall body fat, it won’t target specific areas such as the waist.
The Bottom Line
Losing weight quickly is not an easy goal, but losing fat around your stomach (aka ab flab) is something that can happen, even for men.
If you want to get rid of belly fat, it takes commitment, consistency, choosing a proper diet, and regular cardio exercises such as running or cycling. You will also need to watch the amount of calories you ingest every day.
Burning enough calories while restricting your calorie intake will help burn off excess fat that is stored in your gut.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- A healthy approach to dietary fats: understanding the science and taking action to reduce to reduce consumer confusion (2017, nih.gov)
- Alcohol and weight gain (2017, vic.gov.au)
- Bicycle Crunches (n.d., spotebi.com)
- Body fat distribution, in particular visceral fat, is associated with cardiometabolic risk factors in obese women (2017, nih.gov)
- Effect of 30 days abdominals challenge versus 30 days planks challenge on waist circumference and abdominal skin fold measurements in healthy young individuals: randomized clinical trial (2016, ijmhr.org)
- Effects of aerobic and/or resistance training on your body mass and fat mass in overweight and obese adults(2012, nih.gov)
- Health Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables (2012, nih.gov)
- Health benefits of low glycemic index foods, such as pulses, in diabetes and healthy individuals (2002, pubmed.gov)
- How to get a slim waist, boost your metabolism, and develop strength | Fit&Well (2023, fitandwell.com)
- How to squat? Effects of various stance widths, foot placement angles and level of experience on knee, hip and trunk motion aimming released (2017, bmj.com)
- Increasing muscle mass to improve metabolism (2013, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Major new study of health benefits of obesity (2014, nih.gov)
- Skipping Breakfast is correlated with obesity(2018, nih.gov)
- The role of protein in weight loss and maintenance (2015, sciencedirect.com)
- The sweet danger of sugar (2019, harvard.edu)
- Understanding the science of portion control and the art of downsizing (2018, cambridge.org)
- Video: Step-up exercise (2020, mayoclinic.org)
- Waist exercises: 14 to sculpt your core and obliques + real-time demos (2023, womenshealthmag.com)
- Walking for good health (2015, vic.gov.au)
- Water-Induced Thermogenesis (2003, academic.oup.com)