By Tanja Shaw, Special to The Progress –
Have you ever seen a TV ad about a machine that will quickly and easily reveal your 6-pack? Have you ever read a health magazine claiming that you can flatten your stomach with 3 simple exercises? You may want to think twice before you pull out the Ab Roller or migrate to the television for a flashback to the early 90’s with “Abs of Steel”.
Exercises target muscles, not the fat around it. Sit ups will not flatten a jelly-belly any more than typing will give a receptionist skinny fingers. In fact, too many sit-ups will shorten your abdominal muscles, pull your chin forward and lead to poor posture. The only way to get a flat stomach is to lose the insulation around it.
Appearance is not the only motivation for shrinking your waistline. Storing fat around the abdomen and trunk, or being ‘apple shaped’, is associated with an increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
To lose overall body fat, including those stubborn love handles, you simply must burn more calories than you consume. Exercise, in combination with a nutrient and fibre rich, calorie-reduced diet, will guarantee favourable results. Instead of torturing yourself with 200 posture-trashing sit-ups a day, opt to increase your overall activity level and exercise intensity. Lifting weights will burn calories, and build calorie-burning muscle. Traditional cardiovascular exercise, such as running, brisk walking, hiking, cycling and working on a cardio machine, is also an effective way to burn calories. To gain the benefits of strength and cardiovascular exercise, try circuit training. Alternate one upper body exercise with a lower body exercise, taking little rest in between. The continuous exercise will raise your heart rate while increasing muscle tone.
Although working your abdominals will not burn the fat in the surrounding region, abdominal exercises are an essential part of your fitness routine. Balanced conditioning of all your muscles around your spine and hip complex will promote good posture and prevent back pain.
Tanja Shaw is a Kinesiologist and personal trainer, specializing in weight loss, pre and postnatal fitness, and health and wellness programs. She owns Ascend Fitness Coaching, which offers Boot Camps, mom and baby fitness classes and personal training in the Chilliwack area. More information is at www.ascendfitnesscoaching.com.