With menopause, you start to notice something occurring. The fat that used to migrate toward your hips and thighs takes a detour, settling now in your belly. What's the blame? Lowering estrogen levels. Combine this with a natural loss of muscle mass that occurs as you age, and you may find you carry more of a spare tire than you did in your younger years.
However, women over 60 can still sport a flat stomach by eating right and exercising regularly. While specific ab exercises can help keep the ab muscles from going flaccid, they won't independently flatten a rounded tummy.
Your Flat Stomach Strategy
Don't abandon ab-specific moves; add them to a total-body strength-training routine. If you already lift weights, keep going and make an effort to hit the gym three times per week. If you don't lift, it's time to start.
Research published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise in 2010 found that resistance training helps discourage weight gain and the loss of lean muscle in post-menopausal women. The researchers followed these body composition changes in women who strength-trained three times per week consistently over the course of six years.
Stay physically active during the day to further help prevent excess weight from accumulating at your belly. Aim for a minimum of 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise, or 75 minutes of high-intensity, recommends the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hiking, jogging, dancing and tennis all count as cardio and helps your belly stay slim.
Focus on a diet that consists mostly of lean proteins and fresh vegetables. You may need fewer calories than you did in your 30s and 40s, as the natural reduction in muscle that you experience as you age leads to a decrease in your metabolism.
Meal ideas include eggs with mushrooms and peppers for breakfast, a green salad with chicken breast and an apple for lunch and seared salmon with sweet potato and green beans for dinner. Snack on plain yogurt with berries, nuts and hummus.
Moves for Your Best Belly
A regular yoga practice that flows and then holds abdominal-strengthening poses, such as Boat or Plank, helps you destress, stretch out and contribute to a flatter tum. You might alternatively seek out Pilates, which emphasizes the entirety of the core — the area from your hips to your shoulders — and helps flatten and strengthen your abs.
When these types of classes aren't an option, adopt some flat-belly moves on your own to achieve your goals. These exercises are easy on the joints, which could be feeling their age, but are still extremely effective.
1. Modified Boat
Boat pose is a yoga position that's essentially a static V-sit. You balance on your sit bones with the legs and torso elevated. A modified version is easier on the back.
HOW TO DO IT: Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet planted. Reach your arms forward, past the sides of your legs. Lean back slightly. Pull your belly muscles in toward your spine and lift your feet up off the floor to balance on the backs of your sits bones.
Hold the position for five to 10 breaths. To increase the difficulty, bring your shins parallel to the floor or straighten your legs completely so they make a 45-degree angle with the floor.
2. Reverse Crunches
As you get older, it seems weight accumulates as a pooch below your belly button. Target this lower region of your abs with the reverse crunch. The move also gives you a chance to work your abs with a crunch-like action, without putting excess pressure on your spine.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back and extend your legs up toward the ceiling. Balance them directly over your hips.
Draw your abs in as you lift your hips up and roll your buttocks slightly up and off the floor. Pause momentarily, then relax the "crunch." Repeat 10 to 12 times.
3. The Hundred
The Hundred is a classic warm-up for a Pilates workout. It works your stabilizing abdominal muscles and rectus abdominis.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back with your legs lifted and knees bent at 90 degrees. Allow your arms to rest alongside your hips on the mat. Lift your head, neck and shoulders up off the floor as well as your arms. Extend your legs out to a 45-degree angle with the floor.
Pump your arms like you're splashing water. Inhale for five pumps, exhale for five pumps to complete one cycle. Repeat the cycle 10 total times.