The quest for a whittled waistline gets harder as you age. The reason: hormonal changes encourage excess calories to make a beeline for your belly, where they are stored as—you guessed it—fat.
When researchers at the University of Vermont tested 178 healthy-weight women ages 20 to 60, the oldest had 55% more belly fat than the youngest.
A bigger belly, however, isn’t inevitable, and tummy-toning exercises can help. A pilates workout and training is your secret weapon because it works all of your abdominal muscles: the six-pack rectus abdominis, which runs down your center; the waist-defining obliques, which wrap around your sides; and the deep transversus abdominis, which is often missed in traditional ab workouts, says LA-based Pilates instructor Michelle Dozois, who designed this Pilates workout.
For maximum results, flatten your belly by pulling your navel toward your spine during each rep. Do a Pilates workout three times a week, every other day
- Toe Dip
Lie on your back with your legs up and bent at 90 degrees—thighs straight up and calves parallel to the floor.
Rest your hands at your sides, palms down. Keep your abs contracted and press your lower back toward the floor.
Inhale and lower your left leg for a count of 2 (“down, down”), moving only from your hip and dipping your toes toward the floor (without letting them actually touch it). Exhale and raise your leg back to the starting position for a count of 2 (“up, up”).
Repeat with your right leg and continue alternating until you’ve done 12 reps with each leg.
- Double Trouble Leg Circles
How to: Lay with your back on the floor, hands placed under your glutes with your legs extended straight out. Your partner should also be lying on the floor across from you, with the soles of both your feet almost touching (a).
Lift your legs straight up in the air and lower them gently, your core engaged and your back flush against the floor. Stop when it becomes difficult to keep your back against the floor (b).
Next, keep your core engaged and slowly draw a circle clockwise in the air with your feet. (Your partner should be going counter clockwise, so your feet don’t knock into each other.) (c).
Repeat for 30 seconds, then switch to counterclockwise for 30 seconds.
Having trouble making it through? If this move is tough for you, try bending your knees to 90 degrees.
Start as in the Toe Dip but with your hands behind your head, elbows out to the sides. Curl up to raise your head, neck, and shoulders off the floor.
As you inhale, rotate your torso to the right, bringing your right knee and left shoulder toward each other and extending your left leg toward the ceiling in a diagonal line from your hips.
As you exhale, rotate to the left, bringing your left knee toward your right shoulder and extending your right leg. That’s one rep. Do 6 reps.
- Leg Kick
Lie on your left side with your legs straight and together so your body forms one long line.
Prop yourself up on your left elbow and forearm, lifting your ribs off the floor and your head toward the ceiling. Place your right hand lightly on the floor in front of you for balance. (If this position is uncomfortable, extend your left arm on the floor and rest your head on your arm.)
Raise your right leg to hip level and flex your foot so your toes are pointing forward.
Exhale as you kick, swinging your right leg forward as far as comfortably possible and pulsing for 2 counts (“kick, kick”). Inhale, point your toes, and swing your leg back past your left leg.
That’s one rep. Do 6 reps without lowering your leg. Then switch sides and repeat.
- Side Bend
Sit on your left hip with your left leg bent in front of you and your left hand beneath your shoulder.
Place your right foot flat on the floor just in front of your left foot so your right knee points to the ceiling. Rest your right arm on your right knee..
Pull your abdominals in, press into your left hand, and lift your hips off the floor.
As you come up onto your left knee, straighten your right leg and raise your right arm over your head so you form a line from your right fingers to your right toes.
Hold for 10 to 30 seconds. Lower and repeat on the other side.