Fifty may be the new 40, but convincing your abdominal muscles of that may take some work. Although it's possible to flatten your abs over 50, you do lose muscle mass at the rate of about 3 to 8 percent each decade after the age of 30 and at a rate even faster than that once you've passed 60. With that comes an increasing tendency to accumulate fat, especially around your middle.
The good news is that muscle — at any age — does eventually respond to exercise. Additionally, the benefits of flattening the abdominal muscles for people who are 50-plus years old are far greater than cosmetic. Building abdominal muscle and reducing fat around your middle also helps to protect you from developing insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes.
Before you get started, take the measurements around your middle and record them in a convenient spot. Every week or two, take and record them again. Stay accountable.
Teaching Old Abs New Tricks
You might have to work around some age-related limitations, such as limited flexibility and back or joint problems, but the fundamentals of core exercises for 50-year-olds are still:
- Situps for working the lower abdomen
- Crunches for working the upper abdomen
- Planks for a full-core workout
- Scissors for the lower and mid-abdomen
- Torso twists for stretching and flexibility
Balance Is Crucial
A balanced exercise program includes aerobic exercises in addition to strength training. The second edition of Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends 150 to 300 minutes a week of moderate-level activity or 75 to 150 minutes a week of high-intensity activity.
High-intensity interval training, also known as HIIT, is an effective way to achieve fitness goals. It involves bursts of high-intensity activity followed by varying lengths of recovery intervals and can be adapted to all levels of fitness.
Incorporating HIIT interval training into a general conditioning program enhances progress toward cardiorespiratory fitness, according to ACE Fitness. However, whatever your age, it's important to modify HIIT training to a safe and appropriate level of challenge for your conditioning.
Take It Easy
If you embarked on a fitness regimen when you were younger, keep in mind that you'll most likely have to settle for slower, more-steady progress in your middle years. Avoid injury by giving each exercise your best, but still leaving a little energy "in the bank" in case you've overestimated your strength and endurance. To flatten your abs over 50, you're looking at the long game.
Don't Forget Diet
There's no specific diet for belly fat. Common sense is key when you want to shed weight. It basically means adopting and sticking with a diet that's rich in fruits and vegetables, lean sources of protein and whole grains.
When choosing a diet, it's important to consider your personal preferences and lifestyle. However, there's a considerable body of evidence suggesting that lowering carbohydrate intake does help to reduce belly fat. This doesn't mean you have to go on the Atkins Diet, though. A study published in the January 2015 Journal of Nutrition reported that a modest decrease in carbs is effective in reducing belly fat and lowering insulin resistance.
- Journal of Nutrition: A Lower-Carbohydrate, Higher-Fat Diet Reduces Abdominal and Intermuscular Fat and Increases Insulin Sensitivity in Adults at Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
- Health.gov: Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans
- ACE Fitness: Benefits of HIIT Training: 8 Reasons HIIT Workouts Are so Effective