Toning the belly isn't difficult, but to get rid of flab covering sculpted ab muscles requires a commitment to a nourishing diet and regular exercise. The benefits of a healthy lifestyle change go beyond having flat abs. Losing belly fat also decreases your risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer.
Exercise is key to reducing fat and firming abs to get rid of belly overhang. The standard recommendation is at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity five days a week; however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests 300 minutes a week -- 60 minutes, five days a week -- for weight loss. All aerobic activity that works your heart and lungs will burn fat, but exercises such rowing, kickboxing, off-road running and tennis use core muscles and will help tone the abs during your workout.
Resistance training is designed to build muscular strength and endurance with the added benefit of sculpting muscles. While it doesn't burn as much fat as cardiovascular exercise, it does increase your metabolism to help you increase calorie burn during your regular daily activities. It also helps maintain bone density and prevent injury. Many strength training exercises rely on the abs for stability, so while you are working your legs in a squat or arms by doing pushups, you are also toning the abdominal muscles. Do resistance training at least two nonconsecutive days a week, hitting all major muscle groups, including the arms, back, abs and legs.
Ab exercises can tone and strengthen your muscles, but Pilates focuses on core strength, making it ideal for toning belly overhang. Joseph Pilates created Pilates from a variety of exercise disciplines for rehabilitative purposes. IDEA, a 30-year-old health and fitness association, says Pilates core exercises are more effective than traditional ab crunches. The best Pilates exercises for the abs are the Rollup, the Teaser, the Double Leg Stretch and the Criss-Cross.
Exercise is crucial in burning calories and firming ab muscles, but diet plays an important role as well. Diet combined with exercise speeds up weight loss. Reducing calories by monitoring portion sizes will help you lose weight. Making quality food choices of lean proteins, whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables will help you feel full and energized.
- Harvard Medical School: Abdominal Fat and What to Do About It
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physcial Activity Do Adults Need?
- MayoClinic.com: Strength Training: Get Stronger, Leaner, Healthier
- IDEA: Pilates Exercise: Lessons From the Lab
- Weight Control Information Network: What Is a Healthy Eating Plan?
Leslie Truex has been telecommuting and freelancing since 1994. She wrote the "The Work-At-Home Success Bible" and is a career/business and writing instructor at Piedmont Virginia Community College. Truex has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Willamette University and a Master of Social Work from California State University-Sacramento. She has been an Aerobics and Fitness Association of America certified fitness instructor since 2001.