You might not be able to change your height or your complexion, but you have a lot of control over your body. It's possible to go from flabby to toned with regular exercise, a healthy diet and lots of hard work. Genetic factors can play a role, and not all people can develop the definition of a body builder. However, everyone can increase their muscle mass and shed fat.
Most flab is caused by fat, so getting rid of excess fat is the first step toward a ripped body. Any exercise will burn some calories, and simply getting more active -- by sitting less, parking farther away from stores or playing with your dog -- can help you burn more calories, and therefore more fat, throughout the day. However, to fully blast fat you'll need a regular cardiovascular exercise routine. Good cardiovascular exercise includes routines such as cycling, swimming and running. You'll need to burn 3,500 calories for every pound you want to lose, and cutting excess calories from your diet can help you speed up your flab-burning routine.
To create a ripped look, you'll need to build muscle. While weightlifting and exercise routines can help you create definition, body-weight exercises such as squats, pullups and lunges can also help. If you're new to strength-training, a routine such as yoga can help you slowly develop strength and gently stretch your muscles and improve flexibility.
How Much Exercise?
The amount of exercise you'll need depends on how much weight you need to lose, how much muscle you want to gain and your current weight. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a minimum of two days of strength training and 75 minutes of intense cardio or 150 minutes of moderate cardio per week to maintain physical fitness and health. You'll likely have to do even more than this for noticeable weight loss, and the Mayo Clinic points out that 300 minutes of cardio per week is a more realistic goal for weight loss.
It's not just your exercise routine that affects your ability to get ripped. Smaller people burn fewer calories than larger people, and muscle burns more calories than fat, so as you build muscle, you'll lose weight more quickly. Because men are often larger and more muscular than women, they also tend to lose weight and build muscle more quickly. While a healthy diet can help you lose weight, depriving yourself of basic nutrients -- particularly protein -- can make it nearly impossible to gain muscle. Some health conditions can also affect body shape, so if you find you're not losing weight or gaining muscle, talk with your doctor.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.