Weight loss, pregnancy and inactivity can create excess skin that hangs off the lower abdomen. Baggy shirts and loose pants may conceal the flab, but they won't make it go away. Exercise can tone the underlying abdominal muscles, while diet can help keep fat away. Talk with a doctor before starting a new exercise or diet program.
The belly -- or abs -- is not one muscle, but six. Your rectus abdominis is a flat muscle stretching from your pelvis to your ribs. A firm rectus abdominis will give you a ripped six-pack. Your transverse abdominis protects your internal organs, covering them like a binding sheet. The muscle attaches at your ribs and ends at the hips, and wraps fully around the middle of your abdomen. And you have two sets of obliques -- internal and external. Your obliques make a "V" shape, beginning at the ribs and ending at the hips. The internal obliques are deep muscles, mainly used when flexing and rotating. Your external obliques also help with rotation and flexion, but do as much as the internal obliques. Working the obliques can give your abdomen a slimmer, hourglass appearance.
Firming flabby lower-abdominal skin requires firming the underlying muscles. Exercises that tighten the rectus abdominis cinch the middle of your abs, from the pelvis and up. Including rectus ab-focused exercises also works the obliques, to pull in your sides. V-ups and incline situps activate both the rectus abs and the obliques. Perform both exercises while lying on your back. You'll need a flat surface for V-ups and an inclined bench for the latter. Lie on the floor with your legs out straight, and arms lifted, touching the floor behind your head. Keep your legs and arms straight as you lift both toward the center. Sit up until your hands reach your feet, and then lie back down. Repeat for eight to 12 repetitions, or until your abs feel tight. Incline situps mimic traditional situps, but are inclined. Secure your feet before doing eight to 12 repetitions, or enough to feel tightness in the center and sides of your abdomen.
Firming muscle can help even out unwanted flabby skin, but you're hard work will be for not if you slack off on your cardio. Make time for 150 minutes of medium-intensity cardio, or 75 minutes of high-energy cardio each week. To tone the lower abdominal area and tighten the under-belly area, look for cardio activities that work the hips. Contract your abs while doing lower-body cardio exercises to engage your core. Choose activities such as elliptical trainers and vigorous jump roping.
Nutrition is equally important when trying to eliminate flabby, saggy skin and prevent a fat belly. And when you're talking abs, look to protein, fiber and vitamin E, notes Yale University School of Medicine professor Dr. David Katz. Nutritious foods, such as eggs, Quinoa, almonds and salmon are packed with protein, healthy fats and antioxidant-acting vitamins that stop calories from turning into fat. Watch your portions and eat a variety of foods -- selecting from each of the basic food groups. Limit your sweets and fats, but don't deprive the occasional craving. Doing so can result in a binge. And swap high-calorie, sugary drinks for water.
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images