Belly fat is sometimes considered the price of getting older. For women, this can be especially true after menopause, when body fat tends to shift to the abdomen. However, by cutting calories, exercising regularly, and sticking to a healthy sleep schedule, it’s possible to get a flatter stomach at any age.
Of course, there’s no such thing as a “quick fix,” but specific exercises that can help tone your abdominal muscles and add definition. By taking action and getting your midsection into shape, you’ll not only look better, but your overall well-being will improve too. In fact, experts agree strong abdominal muscles provide stability, support and balance, preventing back pain and other problems.
You might argue there isn’t room for abs workouts in your midlife’s busy schedule. Fortunately, you don’t need fancy machines or a gym membership to get rid of belly fat. All you need is simply squeeze into your agenda some exercises, 10-15 minutes a few days per week and get active. Just remember: dedication and consistency are key.
“One of the most important things you can do to keep your abdominal muscles healthy is moving them,” says Jeff Hoobler, strength and movement specialist at Wahoo Sports Science. “By contracting and relaxing these muscles, you enhance circulation and nervous system activity. The easiest way to do this is to breathe deeply through your lower abdomen, often called belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing.”
The following basic ab workouts can do wonders for your core, the “sturdy central link in a chain connecting your upper and lower body“, as well as help you to feel more confident in your skin. Choose two or three abdominal exercises and you’ll soon see some results.
It is considered one of the best bodyweight exercises for women who want to improve their core strength with at-home workouts. Planks will help you build strength, improve your posture and coordination, gain flexibility, and boost your athletic performance. They also improve back pain.
Begin by lying on the floor, flex your toes and raise your lower body. Make sure your body is in one straight line from your head to your heels. Contract your abs and suck that belly button into your spine and squeeze your butt. Hold this position for 20 to 60 seconds, then release. Repeat at least 3 times.
Standard Abdominal Crunch
This is one of the most common exercises used to train the abdominal muscles. Lie on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Contract your abdominals and curl your torso forward in a crunch motion. Hold this position for one to two seconds and exhale as you lower your upper back and then your shoulders to the floor.
“When you’re doing abdominal crunches, don’t clasp your hands behind your head“, says Nicole Campbell, fitness expert at Mayo Clinic. “This puts your neck at risk of injury and prevents you from effectively isolating the abdominal muscles. Keep your movements smooth and controlled. Visualize your belly button moving up toward your pelvis. Do as many repetitions as you can with good form. Stop when your form begins to suffer. Remember, for best results, fold your arms on your chest and let your abdominal muscles do the work“.
According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), this is the most effective exercise as it stimulates the upper and lower abs and the obliques, all in one single exercise.
Straighten the right leg long while turning the upper body left. Bring your right elbow towards your left knee. Twist at the ribs and lead with your shoulder rather than your elbow. Switch and repeat on the other side.
The key with bicycle crunches is taking them slow and steady: rushing through them doesn’t offer as much tension throughout your muscles, which is the whole point of performing the move. The more you move with intention and control, the better the results will be.
Typically seen in Pilates, barre, and strength training classes, flutter kicks are popular because actually they work. Flutter kicks can be a low-impact and effective way to strengthen your core and work your lower abs, glutes, hip flexors, and quads. They require no equipment, and you need just enough space to lay down on a mat or a floor to do them.
To start, lie flat on your back with your legs straight and your arms at your sides, then begin fluttering your legs up and down, just a few inches off the floor, as if you are swimming. Continue for a designated amount of time or repetitions, then lower your legs, along with your head, neck, and shoulders, back to your starting position of lying prone on the floor.
The hip lift is a good ab exercise to strengthen your major abdominal muscles as well as the deep abs. It is considered less stressful than some ab exercises such as crunches.
To do a hip lift, lie on your back with your left and right knees bent, arms straight beside you, and feet flat on the floor. Press into your heels to drive your hips up off the ground until your body forms a straight line between your shoulders and knees. Hold for a count of two then slowly lower your hips back to the starting position. Repeat for 30 to 60 seconds.
When you perform abs exercises, you should do only as many repetitions as you can with the correct technique. You can achieve more with eight well-executed repetitions than with 20 incorrectly performed repetitions. However, before you begin a new exercise program in your 50s, always check with your doctor.