A jelly belly or muffin top can be enough to prompt you into action toward weight loss and a flatter stomach. Although you can't target your weight loss specifically toward the stomach area, you can lose weight all over, leading to a flatter stomach. Heart-pumping cardio that gets your booty in gear will help you drop the pounds, while strength training can help you transform your stomach from flab to fab.
A loss of 1 to 2 pounds per week is a realistic goal that you can maintain for the long run. Get your sweat on to the tune of 150 to 300 minutes per week, aiming to burn 250 to 500 calories per day for a loss of 1/2 to 1 pound per week through exercise. If you're not ready to exert yourself too much, a brisk, one-hour walk or playing outside with the kids for one hour will help you burn about 250 calories. For a higher calorie burn, get your body moving by jogging, swimming or bike riding.
Flat Stomach Exercises
As you lose weight all over, including around your midsection, you can work toward a flatter stomach by doing ab-toning exercises. These exercises target the ab muscles specifically to help you get that flat-belly look you don't mind baring in a bikini or cropped top. Ab exercises such as medicine ball trunk rotations, planks and bird-dogs will help you work the stomach muscles along with your obliques -- the muscles along your sides. Do your ab exercises three times per week, for 15 to 20 minutes per session.
Combining the Two
If a busy family life or work schedule makes it hard to squeeze in exercise, you can combine cardio and strength training for a more efficient and effective way to lose weight and get a flatter stomach. Circuit training is an effective way to get a full workout that will help you shed the flab and tighten those abs. Alternate between three minutes of cardio -- such as jumping rope, marching in place or walking on a treadmill -- and 45 seconds of strength training. During the strength-training segments, do exercises that work your whole body but also engage your ab muscles, such as squats, lunges, stability ball knee tucks and dumbbell flyes.
Keep in Mind
Regardless of your physical condition, it's important to check in with your doctor before you start working off that flab. Start slowly, once you get the green light, and do the best you can. If 30 minutes of sustained cardio exercise is enough to send you straight to the couch, then break it down into two or three 10- or 15-minute segments over the course of the day. As you work toward your weight-loss goal with exercise, cut your calories each day for greater weight loss. Slash 250 to 500 calories per day for an additional loss of 1/2 to 1 pound per week. This can be done easily by drinking water instead of soda to save about 200 calories, and by using yellow mustard instead of mayo to save about 100 calories. Don't consume less than 1,200 calories a day because eating too little can cause your body to hold onto extra weight as an energy resource.
- American Council on Exercise: Why is the Concept of Spot-Reduction Considered a Myth?
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Physical Activity
- Georgia State University: Physical Activity
- American Council on Exercise: Ab Exercises
- University of New Mexico: The Fitness Professional's Complete Guide to Circuits and Intervals
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Common-Sense Strategies to Long-Term Weight Loss
Mary Ylisela is a former teacher with a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education and mathematics. She has been a writer since 1996, specializing in business, fitness and education. Prior to teaching, Ylisela worked as a certified fitness instructor and a small-business owner.