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3 Healthiest Workout Habits for a Flat Belly

Make these exercises a habit, and you'll start building muscle and burning fat.

Stressing your muscles regularly with resistance exercise has been shown in studies to be an effective way to control high blood sugar and prevent type 2 diabetes. And there are many other good reasons to add strength training to your exercise routine:

The more muscle you have on your skeleton, the more calories you burn even when your body is sitting on the couch. Yes, it's true: you can get a flat belly while sitting down!

Strength training is also important due to the side effects of your body's natural aging process. As you age, your body naturally loses muscle mass, a process officially called sarcopenia. Doing strength exercises slows down the process that replaces lost muscle with fat tissue—so you can keep that fat-burning muscle. Preventing muscle loss will help you stay strong enough to maintain independence in your senior years.

Want all those benefits? All it takes is working out 15 to 30 minutes at least twice a week. Once you feel comfortable enough, you can add more days and rounds to your exercise routine. Building up these workout habits—(1) warming up, (2) bodyweight exercises, and (3) a quick cardio finisher—will help you build muscle that burns belly fat. To help you get started, here is a simple fat-burning, blood-sugar controlling bodyweight exercise circuit from our book The 14-Day No Sugar Diet: Lose up to a Pound a Day and Find Your Path to Better Health. Make a habit out of it, and you'll see the pounds melt off in no time. Read on, and for more on how to lose weight, you won't want to miss The Best Ways to Lose Belly Fat for Good, Say Doctors.

Warm up

Woman doing high knees marching in place

Get the blood pumping with a few minutes of total-body movement:

  • March in place for a minute, lifting your knees high and swinging your arms.
  • Do 20 special jumping jacks, called seal jacks, that are easier on the shoulders for those who have pain there.
  • Stand with feet together and arms across your chest.
  • Jump and spread your legs as in a normal jumping jack but swing your arms out to your sides instead of over your head. Jump your legs back together while simultaneously swinging your arms across your chest. Repeat.

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Circuit cxercises

man exercising medicine ball

Do 8 to 12 repetitions of each of the exercises that follow. Rest for 30 seconds or less after each exercise. Then go on to the next exercise on the list. The moves below include an easier version and a tougher progression so they should be right for just about any fitness level. Do them and you'll have just ticked off one of the Simple Ways to Never Get Sick, According to Doctors.

Arms-Up Squat

arms up squat

Spread your feet shoulder-width apart with toes pointed slightly outward. Raise both arms above your head. Keeping arms raised, bend your knees and push your butt back as if sitting in a chair. Lower your body until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Pause a second and quickly straighten your legs to stand.

Easier: Do the exercise with your hands on your hips. Don't squat so low.

Harder: Do the superhero squat jump. From the squat position, explosively press your feet into the floor to jump as high as you can so that your feet leave the ground.

Step Pushup

man step pushups

Get into a pushup position, but instead of placing your hands on the floor, place them on a stair-step or low bench. Keep your back straight from heels to head. Your arms should be extended straight. Brace your abs. Bend your elbows to lower yourself until your chest is an inch off the step. Push yourself up.

Easier: Plank. Get on all fours and then extend your legs out straight behind you. Your hands should be directly under your shoulders. Straighten your arms. Brace your
core and keep your back flat. Hold this rigid position for 30 seconds.

Harder: Standard pushup. Get into a plank position with your palms on the floor directly under your shoulders and your arms straight. Bend your arms to lower yourself toward the floor until your chest is about an inch from the floor. Press yourself up.

Flutter Kick

flutter kick

Lie on your back on the floor with your arms palms-down next to your sides and your toes pointed. Engage your abs to lift your feet about a foot off the floor. Keeping your legs rigid, begin quickly flutter kicking your straight legs back and forth as you would while swimming. Every four kicks equal one rep.

Easier: Just lift your feet a few inches off the floor, hold for a few seconds and rest them back on the floor.

Harder: Combine a short set of flutter kicks, 5 repetitions, with bicycle crunches, 5 repetitions. This adds rotation and side-bending movements to the core exercise.

Forward Lunge

forward lunge

Stand with your feet together and your hands on your hips. Take a large step forward with your right leg and lower your body toward the floor. Your front leg should bend at the knee, forming a right angle. Your back leg should be bent slightly. Lower yourself until your back knee hovers an inch above the ground and your right thigh is parallel with the floor. Pause, then press your right foot into the floor to push yourself back to the starting position. Next, step forward with your left foot and repeat.

Easier: Step forward and lower your body toward the floor. Then rise up to standing but keep your feet in place. Repeat this sequence five times, then switch leg positions and do another five reps without moving your feet.

Harder: Do the forward lunge while holding a dumbbell or jug of water in each hand to boost resistance.

Hip Raise with Press-Out

woman hip raise exercise leg extension

Lie face-up on the floor or on an exercise mat with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Place your arms out to your sides at 45-degree angles, your palms facing up. Place a 20-inch mini exercise band around your legs above your knees and spread your knees slightly against the resistance as you perform the exercise. Now, raise your hips so that your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Pause for up to five seconds in the up position and then lower your body to the starting position.

Easier: Perform the hip raise without using the exercise band.

Harder: Do the hip raise without the exercise band. But at the top position, when your butt is off the ground, extend one foot out straight while keeping its thigh parallel with the thigh of the other leg. Return your foot to the floor and then repeat with the other leg. After returning that foot to the floor lower your butt to the floor.


mountain climber

The last exercise is called a "finisher." It brings an extra aerobic component to the workout to burn more calories. After completing the finisher, rest for two minutes and then repeat the circuit. Get into the "up" pushup position with your hands directly under your shoulders and arms straight. Now, rapidly bend and straighten each leg one at a time in an alternating fashion. It's like running in place with your hands on the ground. Try bringing your knees to your chest with each pump of your legs. Do these as fast as possible for a full 20 seconds. Then rest and repeat twice more. And now that you've exercised your heart, feed it: Check out The Two Best Diets for Heart Health, According to Doctors.

Jeff Csatari
Jeff Csatari, a contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, is responsible for editing Galvanized Media books and magazines and for advising journalism students through the Zinczenko New Media Center at Moravian University in Bethlehem, PA. Read more about Jeff