This may come as a surprise, but the best exercises to trim arm and stomach flab don't necessarily focus on the arms or belly. There's no way to remove fat directly from specific body parts, so your best bet is to go with the top calorie-busting moves to burn fat all over. As your body shrinks, your problem areas will become proportionately smaller. Consult your doctor before embarking on a new exercise plan.
Shredding calories fast, cardio is your ally in the fight against flab. Prime picks include running, which burns 860 calories per hour for a 160-pound woman, and jumping rope, which burns the same number of calories. Rollerblading and high-impact aerobics are also excellent options, torching roughly 550 calories per hour at the same weight. If you're new to aerobic exercise, start with a moderate activity such as walking briskly, and gradually move up to more intense moves. Aim for 300 minutes per week of cardio, which breaks down to an hour a day, five days per week. You can fit that into your schedule as you please, but each session should last at least 10 minutes.
Muscle-toning exercises add definition for a shapelier figure and also rev up your metabolism for faster weight loss. For your arms, try bent-knee pushups, curls with dumbbells or soup cans, and dips. Tone your stomach with crunches, V-ups, planks and hanging leg-hip raises. Perform one to three sets of each exercise, with 12 repetitions per set. Also perform muscle-toning exercises for your other muscle groups: back, chest, legs and hips. Fit muscle-building exercises into your schedule two or three days per week, and give muscles at least a day of rest before working them again.
If you have excess belly flab, stress may be at least partially to blame. Under stress, your body produces more of the hormone cortisol, which contributes to visceral fat buildup deep in your midsection. This type of fat is more dangerous than the subcutaneous fat that sits just under the skin, and visceral fat is linked to heart disease, diabetes and dementia. Combat visceral fat by taking yoga classes, learning to meditate or studying tai chi. Avoid stressful people and situations whenever possible, and learn coping mechanisms such as deep-breathing exercises.
The Diet Factor
You can exercise your buns off and not lose a pound if you eat as many calories as you burn. Cut back to about 1,500 calories a day, an effective and sustainable amount for most women. Eating fewer calories will leave you hungry and may not provide enough energy for workouts. Quit the junk food and reach for whole, lean fare such as fresh produce, whole-wheat breads and pastas, nonfat cottage cheese, egg whites and tuna packed in water.
- MayoClinic.com: Exercise for Weight Loss: Calories Burned in 1 Hour
- American Council on Exercise: Arm Exercises
- ExRx.net: Waist Exercise Menu
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity do Adults Need?
- Harvard Health Publications: Taking Aim at Belly Fat
- GoodHousekeeping.com: Is 1,200 Calories a Day Enough?
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.