Do Sit-ups Help You Lose Weight And Belly Fat?

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Different exercises can offer different results. Find out whether sit-ups help you lose weight and burn belly fat and how they compare to alternatives.

To lose weight you need to get to a point where your body needs more energy to function than is coming in from food. When this is the case, you start using energy stores like body fat.

Sit-ups help you lose weight in the sense that they burn more calories than just sitting still.

They do this by making your movements more intense and potentially building a bit of muscle mass.

That being said, even if they help to a tiny extent, sit-ups are still relatively bad in terms of burning calories and building a lot of muscle mass.

This makes sit-ups a bad choice for people who are only interested in losing weight.

Next, many people also consider doing sit-ups because they think this exercise targets belly fat. However, it is generally not possible to focus fat loss in significant amounts.

Another important thing to note is that exercise is not the only detail that matters when trying to lose weight. Other lifestyle habits like the things you eat play a big role too.

Can sit-ups help you lose weight?

If you want to lose weight you need to get to a point where you need more energy to function than is coming in from food. When this happens, your body starts using energy stores like body fat to get the difference.

Basically any form of exercise, including sit-ups, can help you get to this point and make the difference bigger.

Sit-ups do this by increasing the intensity of your movements to a small extent and potentially helping you build a bit more muscle mass.

These things will increase the amount of calories (energy) you burn.

One thing to note is that other lifestyle habits like the things you eat still play a big role in whether or not you will lose weight and to what extent.

It is possible to lose weight without any exercise at all by making enough positive changes in these other areas.

In short, sit-ups could help you lose a bit of weight but your diet will influence this a lot. Exercising more is no guarantee for weight loss.

Does that mean sit-ups are a good weight loss exercise?

So you can say that basically all forms of exercise tend to help weight loss to some extent. Even so, this is not the only detail that matters.

You only have a limited amount of time which means how effective sit-ups are for weight loss compared to other exercises matters too.

How many calories sit-ups burn compared to alternatives

Below you can find a few predictions about how many calories sit-ups burn compared to other exercises and activities.

Something important to keep in mind is that these are rough estimations. The actual number of calorie you burn will likely vary due to differences in body composition, hormone levels, exact sit-up intensity, etc.

That being said, these amounts are still helpful to get an idea of how good sit-ups are in this area. The estimations are for a 155-pound (70 kg) individual doing the exercises for 30 minutes (1):

  • Bodyweight sit-ups: 103 calories
  • Water Aerobics: 149 calories
  • Stretching (Hatha Yoga): 186 calories
  • Rowing, Stationary (moderate): 260 calories
  • Bicycling, Stationary (moderate): 260 calories
  • Elliptical Trainer (general): 335 calories
  • Running 5.2 mph: 335 calories
  • Jumping rope: 372 calories
  • Swimming (breaststroke): 372 calories

Doing sit-ups for 30 minutes is not the most realistic workout but it helps put things in perspective.

It becomes clear that sit-ups are relatively bad for burning a lot of calories in a short amount of time.

Do sit-ups help you build a lot of muscle mass?

There are resistance training exercises that initially seem bad for weight loss because they don’t burn many calories during the workout.

However, if these exercises help you build a lot of muscle mass, they can be good for weight loss anyway.

Your weight plays a big role in how much energy you use during everything you do.

If you increase your weight in a healthy way by building muscle, you increase how many calories you burn throughout the day.

That being said, sit-ups work relatively small muscles like your abs, obliques, and hip flexors.

Even if you do them in the right repetition ranges, set ranges, and with weights, you will likely not gain that much muscle mass from doing sit-ups.

Do sit-ups help you lose belly fat?

Even when they know sit-ups do not burn that many calories and don’t build that much muscle mass, many people consider doing this exercise anyway because they get the impression it is helpful for losing belly fat specifically.

Unfortunately, just because you feel the muscles around your stomach working during sit-ups does not mean the energy to fuel your movements comes from that area.

In simpler words, sit-ups do not necessarily help you lose belly fat.

At the same time, in theory, sit-ups could help you lose a tiny amount of fat from your stomach when you are at a certain point in your weight loss journey.

To get to this point, you have to lose enough fat overall. This typically involves changes in other areas like your diet and/or other workouts too.

How many sit-ups a day to lose weight and potentially belly fat

By now, it should be clear that sit-ups are helpful at all for losing weight and burning belly fat.

It can be interesting to note how many sit-ups you would need to burn certain amounts of calories to put this into perspective.

People of different body weight will have to do more or less the following amounts of sit-ups to burn the number of calories in one pound (0.45 kg) of body fat (3500 calories):

  • 125 Pounds (56 kg): 30,476 sit-ups
  • 155 Pounds (70 kg): 24,578 sit-ups
  • 185 Pounds (83 kg): 20,592 sit-ups
  • 215 Pounds (97 kg): 17,719 sit-ups

The average person will do around 24 repetitions per minute so these amounts will definitely take a good amount of time. Especially if you only do something like 50 or 100 sit-ups a day.

Should you do sit-ups when trying to lose weight?

You can say that sit-ups help weight loss to a small extent because they make your movements more intense and potentially help you build a small amount of muscle mass.

That being said, sit-ups are still relatively bad when it comes to burning calories and building a lot of mass. This makes them a relatively bad choice if your only goal is to lose weight.

Instead, you either want to go for cardiovascular workouts that burn more calories during the workout or resistance training exercises that work big muscle groups.

Even when doing these, you want to keep in mind that the things you eat play a big role in whether or not you will lose weight and to what extent.

Can they help you get visible six-pack abs?

While they are not the best for fat loss, sit-ups do offer a benefit that can be relevant for people trying to lose weight.

More specifically, core exercises like sit-ups can help you grow your abs and obliques if you do them right.

If you are at a body fat percentage that is low enough, growing your core muscles makes your six-pack more visible. This could be one of your fitness goals.

Some of the exercises that burn the most belly fat

At this point, you may be interested in alternative exercises that are more helpful for burning belly fat than sit-ups. Some examples include:

  • Running
  • Deadlifts
  • Cycling
  • Bent-over rows
  • Using a StairMaster
  • Squats

Again, even if you implement these exercises, you will likely still need to make changes in other lifestyle habits like your diet to burn significant amounts of belly fat.

These movements also do not target this area specifically. You have to lose enough weight overall to get to a point where you start burning belly fat.

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Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.