Looking to tone up your belly? Here’s our health guide to improving your physique and overall health.

More than any other part of the body, belly fat is especially dangerous. It can lead to cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, certain cancers, and other life-threatening illnesses. Also, a recent study states that belly fat creates more fat. So, how can we banish belly fat? Follow these tips:

Fat: the key facts

Not all fat is the same and we store it in two ways: just under the skin (subcutaneous) and deeper inside around the vital organs (visceral fat). While the main role of visceral fat is to cushion the organs, it releases inflammatory compounds that can lead to an array of health risks as noted. What we know is where your body stores fat depends on your genes, lifestyle factors (stress, sleep, etc.), age and sex. For instance, men under 40 have a higher proportion of visceral fat to subcutaneous fat than women. Women store more visceral fat after menopause. Even thin people can store visceral fat when they have an inactive lifestyle.

There are three key areas you need to address if you're going to decrease excess belly fat:

1. Exercise

For most healthy adults, it is recommended that we have at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity – brisk walking, or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity such as jogging. Additionally, strength training is recommended at least twice per week. But, it should be noted that in a Duke University study, resistance training (including ab crunches) alone reduced only subcutaneous fat, and vigorous aerobic activity (four times per week) reduced both subcutaneous and visceral abdominal fat stores.

2. Diet

We all know how to eat healthily, but be aware of hidden sugars that pack on the pounds over time. Sugar is the number one enemy in our fight against belly fat. There is hidden sugar in a wide range of everyday (supposedly nutritious foods) such as orange juice, whole wheat bread and cereals, and yes, wine too.

You should also remember that carbohydrates are not created equal – try eating more fruit and veggies versus breads, pasta and crackers.

Also, bear in mind that there are good fats and bad fats and that the right kind of fats will actually help you to burn fat. Stay away from hydrogenated oils, canola and vegetable oils, margarine, and fake butter products. Instead, eat “real” butter, eggs, nuts, olive oil. Ideally aim to eat all natural and unprocessed food, which is easier for the body and liver to break down. But, most importantly, keep portion sizes in check since calories can add up quickly and without you realising.

3. Sleep

Surprisingly too little or too much sleep can have an effect on visceral fat stores. In a study people who slept for five hours or less, or eight hours or more per night ended up gaining more visceral fat than those who slept between six and seven hours per night. So, if you want to blast that belly fat get some early nights.

One thing to keep in mind, when trying to lose excess fat and keep it from coming back, focus on slow and consistent weight loss – no more than two pounds per week is recommended.

Daily effort and consistency will trigger positive results when trying to lose excess fat. It is not an easy road, but it will pay off in a lifetime of health.