Attaining a flat stomach is hard enough in your younger years. After 50, it can seem nearly impossible — for both men and women. Hormonal changes, poor eating habits, lack of exercise and even bad posture all contribute to a bulging waistline and belly.
Striving for a flat stomach isn’t all about vanity, either. Fat around the midsection raises your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancers, making it a health issue as well as an aesthetic one. A waist circumference of more than 40 inches for men and more than 35 inches for women equates with these higher disease risks.
No Quick Fixes
Getting rid of it takes work.
“For men, it’s where we store fat predominantly in general, so after 50, it’s even harder,” says Tom Holland, a Connecticut exercise physiologist and author of Swim, Bike, Run — Eat. “It’s all about body fat percentage. To get your body fat low it takes a very consistent good diet and exercise. In short, you must be willing to pay the price.”
Fat around the midsection raises your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancers.
The good news/bad news: There’s no mystery or magic series of exercises or way of eating that works for everyone. “But it’s definitely doable if you’re willing to put in the work,” says Holland, who advocates keeping workouts very simple. “Traditional crunches using very small movements go a long way. It’s not about doing an endless number of crunches. A basic crunch and a basic oblique crunch work best. And not a lot of leg lifts, which compromise the back. Mix it up!”
Four Fab Rules for Flatter Abs
Irv Rubenstein, exercise physiologist and founder of S.T.E.P.S., a Nashville, Tenn., a science-based fitness facility, suggests following these four rules for flat abs after 50:
Rule 1: Decrease your body fat
“Keep in mind you can’t reduce fat in any one specific spot,” says Rubenstein. Losing belly fat means losing body fat all over. This largely relates to diet.
Rule 2: Get your posture in line
“Standing with near perfect posture gives the appearance of flatter abs as the chest stands out beyond the belly,” says Rubenstein. When standing and looking in the mirror sideways, your ear, shoulder, hip and ankle should all form a perfect line.
Rule 3: Tighten muscles
Do this with crunches, planks, dead bugs, whatever you choose, says Rubenstein. Try some of the exercises below.
Rule 4: Accept your basic body shape
This one isn’t exactly under your control, but some people have wider rib cages that give the appearance of a larger waist, says Rubenstein. “Others have smaller waistlines, which is also a function of skeletal structure.”
In addition, try this following routine developed by Clark Shao, head fitness coach at Six Pack Shortcuts, online and in Austin, Texas. Complete this four-move ab sequence a total of three times, taking brief rests between each circuit. “Be sure to use a yoga mat or cushioned surface on the floor to support your spine and for comfort,” Shao says.
- Lying flutter kicks
- Heel taps
- Seated pull-ins
The bottom line: Abdominal exercises combined with clean eating (mostly whole foods in their natural state, no junk food/fast food), regular cardio and strength training can help you achieve a flatter stomach at any age.