April 29, 2012 at 11:59 AM ET
A toned, flat tummy is a goal many of us strive to achieve in time for bathing suit season, but endless crunches and ditching all your favorite foods until July 4th isn’t the right—or fun--way to do it. A sculpted core and trim tummy can be attained by incorporating small changes into your day, like holding in your abs while you walk and adding the right healthy fats to your diet. In our lean belly guide, you’ll get diet and exercise tips that will help you eliminate hard-to-reach ab flab and reveal a sculpted, sexy midsection. Here, learn 25 ways to flatten your belly by summer.
1. Take your gossip session on a walk
Instead of catching up with friends over food and drinks, suggest a reunion on the move—you're likely to work out 104% harder if you have an exercise buddy. Suggest a weekly walk-and-talk session, form a friendly fitness club, or take advantage of gym specials together. You'll motivate everyone to get moving while you grow even closer.
2. Deflate your muffin tope with the roll-up
Hold a resistance band taut between hands and lie on the floor face up, with legs extended and arms overhead. Pull abs in, tuck your chin, lift arms toward the ceiling, and roll head, shoulders, and torso up and over your legs as far as you can. Keep heels firmly on the floor and reach hands towards your feet. Pause, then slowly roll back down. Do 5 to 8 reps with 30 minutes of cardio 5 to 6 times a week.
3. Make time for cardio
If you want to burn the most belly fat, a Duke University study confirms that aerobic exercise is the most effective in burning that deep, visceral belly fat. In fact, aerobic training burns 67% more calories than resistance training or a combination of the two, according to the study.
4. Try out Spidey moves
Eliminate spillover spots with the Spiderman Climber: Get into plank position with arms and legs extended, hands beneath shoulders, and feet flexed. Keeping your abs tight, bend your left leg out to the side and bring the knee toward the left elbow. Pause, then return to start. Switch sides. Do 20 reps, alternating sides, with 30 minutes of cardio 5 to 6 times a week.
5. Fight fat with fiber
For every 10 grams of fiber you eat daily, your belly will carry almost 4% less fat. Thankfully, there are more enjoyable ways to increase your fiber than scarfing down a box of bran flakes: Two apples, ½ cup of pinto beans, one artichoke, or two cups of broccoli will all give you 10 grams of belly-flattening fiber.
6. Be pushy at restaurants
Saying, "I'll go last" when the waiter comes around could be adding bulk to your belly. A recent study showed that a normal-weight woman was more likely to mimic a thin woman's eating habits than an obese woman's. So when you're out for girl’s night, order first. You'll keep yourself, and maybe even a friend or two, on track to a flatter tummy.
7. Do the Windshield Wiper
Lie face up with arms out to your sides, palms down, and legs bent at 90 degrees so feet are off the floor. Keep abs tight and slowly lower legs to the left as far as possible, keeping shoulders on the floor. Pause, then return to start. Repeat to the right. Do 20 reps, alternating sides.
8. Clean your house
One more reason to start your spring-cleaning: Vacuuming is a great ab workout. Tighten your abdominal muscles while you push back and forth for a tighter tummy while you clean.
9. Cut back on the pretzels
Too much salt will make you retain more fluid, which contributes to a puffy appearance and extra water weight.
10. Fry fat with the boat move
Target your deepest ab muscles with The Boat: Lie face up on a mat with arms straight up over chest. Lift your upper body off the ground by rolling through the spine. At the same time, raise your legs so that you're balancing on your butt, knees bent and shins parallel to the ground. Slowly roll back down onto the mat, lowering legs. That’s 1 rep. Do 5 reps per set, resting 30 to 60 seconds between sets.
11. Add this green fruit to your diet
Just half an avocado contains 10 grams of MUFAs (monounsaturated fatty acids), which halt blood sugar spikes that tell your body to store fat around your belly. Eat these in ¼ cup servings to ward off belly fat without overdoing it.
12. Play catch
Get into a crunch position—lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor, shoulders and head off the floor with your abs contracted. Then have someone throw an exercise ball (or basketball) to you—first to your left side so you have to twist and reach to catch it, and then to your right. Do this as many times as is comfortable, and try to increase the number each week.
13. Skip your daily soda habit
Where do you think all those bubbles from carbonated drinks end up? They gang up in your belly! Swap soda, diet soda, and seltzer for Sassy Water, a Flat Belly Diet staple beverage. Get the Sassy Water recipe here.
14. Get on the wagon
That glass of wine with every meal may be part of the reason your jeans are too tight. Alcohol intake is known to raise cortisol levels, sending fat straight to your belly.
15. Paddle off your belly pooch
Kayaking is an exhilarating, ab-crunching workout. Constant paddling requires lots of twisting and tightness from your abs for long periods of time. For the best kayaking trips, visit kayaking.org
16. Sprinkle these seeds on your salad
Sunflower seeds are packed with tons of MUFAs and B vitamins, which play an important role in protecting against inflammation. Sprinkle two tablespoons on top of your salad and stir-fries.
17. Sculpt your core while you walk
As you go about your day, imagine there's a magnet pulling your belly button back toward your spine. Practice the tuck until it becomes comfortable, and soon this easy ab-engaging move will become like second nature.
18. Add fresh seafood to your plate
Salmon and other fatty fish are rich in the same omega-3 fatty acids as many belly- fat-busting foods. Try poaching your fish for a low-calorie way to enjoy this lean protein.
19. Guzzle more H20
Forget water weight: Drinking lots of water helps flush bloat that your body might be holding onto in the heat.
20. Stand tall while pumping iron
Stand as much as possible when doing weight-lifting exercises. That way your abs will naturally help to balance and stabilize your body. To add an extra flat belly boost to your weight routine, concentrate on keeping your abs tight and maintaining good posture while you lift, but without holding your breath.
21. Sleep away your belly fat
Research from the University of Chicago shows that those who sleep 7 hours or more a night lose twice as much fat and are less hungry than those who get less than 7 hours of shut-eye.
22. Tone up with tennis
A few sets of backhands and forehands in the cool fall weather, and you'll feel your abs getting tighter after just a few sets. You'll strengthen your obliques with every stroke.
23. Keep peanut butter on your diet
One serving of peanut butter has 2 g of fiber and 8 g of protein, on top of belly-busting MUFAs. Try this easy recipe to add a flat belly punch to dinner: Toss a half-cup of whole grain noodles with 3 ounces cooked shrimp, minced scallions, and 1/4 cup sliced red bell pepper. Dress with a mixture of 2 tablespoons peanut butter, 2 tablespoons warm water, and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes.
24. Punch your way to a flat stomach
Take your workout indoors with boxing. Aerobic kickboxing is more than just a great belly fat-burning, cardio workout. All those arm thrusts and high kicks firm abs, too.
25. Sculpt while you sit
While you're driving, sitting, or just waiting at the doctor's office, imagine there's gum or wet paint on the back of your chair so you have to hold yourself up instead of leaning back. Keep shoulder blades down and back, abdominals lifted, and picture yourself knitting your rib cage together and in.
More from Prevention: