If you battle a belly pouch every time you zip up your skinny jeans, tummy fat is probably to blame -- even if the rest of your body is slender. Go ahead and blame Mom and Dad; some women are just genetically predisposed to store fat in the stomach area. You might have buns of steel and biceps that rival Madonna's, but if you're basing your tummy fat-blasting strategy on misinformation, you won't be losing that sagging belly anytime soon. Stop the endless sit-ups, put away that ab belt and get on track with a fitness regimen to banish the belly pouch for good.
Regular cardio sessions can help you trim fat from all over your body. Because no one form of cardio is superior to another, take your pick from jogging, swimming, brisk walking, bicycling -- whatever suits your mood. If it pumps up your heart, it burns calories and it burns fat. If you're short on time -- or just hate cardio -- high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, can help you burn the maximum amount of calories in the shortest amount of time. Still, any cardio that you're willing to do regularly will get the job done; Harvard University recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio most days of the week to tackle belly fat.
Building lean muscle in your midsection can help tighten a tummy pouch and leave behind a smooth, firm stomach once the excess fat disappears. Plus, the more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns all day long, reports Sheila Dugan, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist. You don't need to pump out 100 sit-ups a day to see results; the American Council on Exercise recommends doing core-strengthening exercises just two to three times per week. To target your entire midsection, try a variety of ab exercises like bicycle crunches, planks, reverse crunches, trunk rotations, side planks and standing wood chops.
Abs may get all the attention, but back muscles are just as critical for core strength. In fact, while they might be on the opposite of your body, those muscles play a major role in holding in an otherwise poochy belly. For a strong, tight midsection, supplement your ab workouts with back exercises like supermans, bird-dogs, stability ball walkouts, cobras and torso rotations.
Strengthening the abs and back muscles is key for creating a flatter tummy, but if traditional strength exercises aren't your cup of tea -- whether because you're injured or you wouldn't be caught dead in the weight room -- Pilates is the perfect alternative. Not only is it gentle, Pilates is one of the most core-focused forms of exercise, making it an ideal workout for women needing some extra help targeting that belly pouch. Virtually all Pilates moves engage and strengthen the abdominal and back muscles, helping to improve your posture and, in turn, pull in your core for a flatter belly.
Kristen Fisher is a freelance writer and editor with professional experience in both print and online media. She has published articles on a wide variety of topics including health, fitness, nutrition, home and food, and her work has appeared in "Connections Magazine" and on Lifescript.com. She graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in psychology.