“The Healthy Geezer” answers questions about health and aging in his weekly column.
Question: What kind of exercise should I do to get rid of this big gut I’m carrying around?
Answer: Exercise alone will not do the job. Strengthening abdominal muscles can help you look tighter and thinner. But spot exercises won’t banish belly fat.
The real secret to losing belly fat is a balanced, calorie-controlled diet and an hour a day of moderate activity such as brisk walking.
If you are going to do abdominal exercises, which ones work best? Most people figure that doing sit-ups is the logical solution, but there are better ways to attack the middle.
Believe it or not, you can develop your deep abdominal muscles by sucking in your belly. Exhale completely and then pull your belly button in and up slowly. Hold this position for 10 seconds and then rest for 10 seconds. You can do this on your hands and knees or standing.
Pelvic exercises work on your lower abdomen. Lie on your back with your knees bent. Tighten your abdominal muscles and bend your pelvis up slightly. Hold for five to 10 seconds. Repeat.
Here’s another pelvic exercise. Lie on your back with your knees bent up toward your chest and your arms at your sides. Tighten your lower abdomen and try to lift your buttocks up off the floor. Hold for five to 10 seconds. Repeat.
How often you do these exercises depends upon your physical condition. Don’t do anything that hurts. And checking with your doctor before starting a new exercise program is recommended.
Belly fat—or “abdominal obesity” as it is known in polite circles—is not just an unsightly mass of blubber that forces you to look for bigger pants. That spare tire is a health hazard.
Excess weight is unhealthy, but extra abdominal weight is especially unhealthy, according to some experts. Abdominal fat cells are more than just stored energy. These cells make hormones and other substances that can impact your health. Some experts say that too much belly fat increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, breast cancer, diabetes, gallbladder problems, high blood pressure and colorectal cancer.
However a recent analysis challenges the long-held idea that obese people who carry their extra weight mainly around the middle are at greater risk for heart disease than those whose fat collects on their thighs and buttocks. A report, published in The Lancet, said information about weight or body shape did not improve the ability to predict risk.
There is some very good news for those trying to lose belly fat (I’m with you, Chubby). Belly fat is the first to go when you diet and exercise. Almost everyone who loses weight will lose it first in the belly. And they will lose proportionately more weight in this region than in other parts of the body.
So, what exactly is a big belly? Most authorities will tell you that a man’s waistline larger than 40 inches and a woman’s waistline larger than 35 inches is too much middle.
The proper way to measure your waist is to use a soft tape measure. Lie down and wrap it around your natural waistline, located above your hipbone and below your belly button. Take the measurement without holding your breath or pulling your stomach in.
A big belly is a common sight on seniors. As you age and your metabolism slows down, the amount of fat in your body slowly increases. Women experience an even greater overall fat increase than men do. Then, after menopause, body fat tends to shift to the abdomen. However, men are more likely than women to gain weight around the waist.
You can inherit a tendency to get a big belly. For most men, however, the cause is more likely to be what they do with their elbow. Too much alcohol with give you a spare tire. There is such a thing as a “beer belly.” However, a more accurate definition would be “alcohol abdomen.”
There seems to be a link between abdominal obesity and depression. There have been reports showing that cortisol, a stress hormone, is related to both depression and abdominal obesity. Some researchers suspect that people who are depressed may have higher levels of abdominal obesity because of elevated cortisol. More studies are needed to determine the underlying causes for weight gain among those who reported being depressed.
If you would like to read more columns, you can order a copy of “How to be a Healthy Geezer” at http://www.healthygeezer.com
- 8 Everyday Ways to Flatten Your Abs
- From 20s to 60s, Here’s How 9 Women Got the Abs of Their Dreams
- On being patient and finding time to achieve your goals
- On achieving them through total commitment and hard work
- On abs and their ever-changing angles
- On whether or not abs are really a sign of health
- On how abs are made, not just in the kitchen, but also in your body
- On knowing when your abs are still great abs
- On having abs as a perk, not a goal
- On enjoying abs as a 15-year work-in-progress
- On the mastery of weightlifting for powerhouse abs
- So here it is
- Tone up the tummy
- How to get rid of bloating
- What the Heck Is Stomach Vacuuming?
- How It Works
- Pros and Cons
- The Bottom Line: Fit or Flop?
- Tackle the Unexpected Leak™ – It’s All About Your Core
- How to Get a Flat Stomach in 10 Minutes
8 Everyday Ways to Flatten Your Abs
You think the old adage ‘no pain, no gain’ is totally true when it comes to your abs? Not so, says Paige Waehner, a Chicago-based personal trainer. There are plenty of ways you can engage your core all day long for fitness and weight loss — without hours of mat work at the gym or at home. With these tips, you can work your way to flatter abs while you’re on your way to work, while you’re at work, and when you’re relaxing at home. Even better, these eight moves are simple enough that they’re the perfect starter routine for any fitness level:
- Take five for morning fitness: Ballerinas are known for their flat stomachs, so spend five minutes copying this dance move when you get up in the morning: Stand to the left of a chair and rest your left hand on the chair’s back. Keep your legs together. Touch your heels, and point your toes out to form a triangle. Lift your right arm straight up, reaching for the ceiling. Now hinge forward at the waist, round your back, and reach your right hand toward the floor, touching it if you can. Holding the position, tighten your abs, bringing your belly button in toward your spine. Exhale and slowly lift yourself to the starting position. A complete repetition should take about 20 seconds. Do five repetitions in all, adding more reps as you feel stronger.
- Work your core as you commute: Driving to work or taking public transit? Do some isometric contractions while on your way. Pull your abs in and contract without holding your breath. Hold for a few seconds and then release. Here’s a good way to be sure you do it enough to benefit: “Repeat for at least two songs on the radio,” Waehner says.
- Stretch at your desk: Once you’re at work and at your desk, try these seated rotations. Hold a full water bottle, paperweight, or small hand weight between both hands. Sit up tall and keep your hips and knees forward. Slowly rotate the bottle from one side of your body to the other side, concentrating on contracting your obliques, Waehner advises. Extra: If you squeeze your weight of choice as you rotate, you will engage your chest.
- Try side bends before lunch: “This is a great one to do at work when you need to stretch,” Waehner says. Stand up and reach your arms overhead, pressing your palms together and keeping your arms straight. Stretch up and lean to the right as far as you can, focusing on contracting the left side of your waist. Come back to the center and lean to the left, focusing on contracting the right side of your waist. Repeat for 30 to 60 seconds. Sure, you might get some strange looks from your co-workers, but once they realize how good this stretch feels, they just might join in.
- Do leg lifts in line: Sneak in this move while waiting in line at the cafeteria or in the grocery store. Stand with your feet 2 to 3 inches apart. Engage your abdominal muscles so that your spine is stable and straight. Slowly lift your left leg 3 to 6 inches off the ground and balance on your right leg. Try not to sway from side to side as you hold this position for 10 to 15 seconds. Return your foot to the ground and repeat with your right leg. Aim for an equal number of repetitions with each leg before you reach the head of the line.
- Move in the mid-afternoon: Here’s another ab workout you can try mid-afternoon at your desk: Stand up and put your hands flat on your desk, directly under your shoulders. Keeping your back flat, walk one foot back and then the other until your body forms a straight line. “You should look as though you’re going to do a push up,” Waehner says. Now walk your feet in towards your desk. Repeat for 60 seconds or more.
- Add abs after dinner: When you’re at home relaxing, get off the couch, and grab a stability ball, one of Waehner’s favorite fitness tools. For this workout, lie on the ball, positioning it under your lower back. Place your arms behind your head or cross them over your chest. Tighten your abs, and lift your torso off the ball. As you contract your stomach muscles, pull the bottom of your rib cage down toward your hips. Lower back down to stretch your abs. The ball forces your legs to do more work than just doing floor crunches, Waehner explains. Plus, maintaining your balance on the ball will force you to engage your entire body for balance.
- Exercise before bed: Lie down on the floor on your back with your legs straight out. Slowly bring your right leg up toward the ceiling as you lift your left arm as well. Cross your leg over your body so your toes touch your fingertips (or get them as close as you can). Lower and repeat with your left leg and your right arm. Go slow so you can control the movement, and do as many as you can in five minutes.
Sneak these ab exercises into your day and you’ll start to see results. But, Waehner notes, remember that for a truly flat stomach, it takes more than exercise alone. Don’t forget to exercise regularly and eat a healthy, balanced diet while burning more calories than you consume.
For more fitness, diet, and nutrition trends and tips, follow @weightloss on Twitter from the editors of @EverydayHealth.
Breathing is an involuntary process and we don’t need any extra effort in order to breathe, but in reality breathing simply is not enough in itself to sustain a healthy life, breathing correctly is vital to live longer, stay in a happy mood and keep away illnesses.
Different types of breathing can have great effects on the body such as relieving tension, detoxifying the body and even helping you lose weight. Yes, you can actually lose weight and inches around your belly, just by breathing!
Here are a few breathing exercises that help flatten your tummy:
1. Stomach Vacuum breathing
This breathing exercise makes you exhale all the air out of your lungs. It also helps you suck in your tummy to the maximum. This will help you to bring out your abs hidden under the layers of fat.
You need to start the exercise by placing your knees and hands on the ground. You back should stay curved in order to help build vacuum. Exhale completely and suck your belly in. Expand your lungs, like you are breathing but the air shouldn’t enter into it. You should pull in your stomach so that it touches your spine ( not literally, to the maximum extent). Hold this position for 10 seconds. Release your breath slowly and repeat the same method 10 times every day, to notice the best results.
2. Open Mouth breathing
Breathing with your mouth pressurizes the abdominal muscles, giving you a relaxed and refreshing experience and is a simple exercise to lose belly fat. In addition, it is also one of the functional face exercises for cheeks and chin toning. You can sit or stand or even lie down for this exercise. Open your mouth and breathe evenly and slowly through your mouth Inhale as you count silently up to 10. Your exhalation should take a longer time. So if you inhale for 2 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds. Do not force yourself too much, try to do as much as you can. Continue this three times, every day. If you are unable to inhale and exhale for a few seconds, you may be breathing fast. If you are standing, practice this exercise while sitting down.
3. Kneel Down breathing
This exercise will burn your calories rapidly and emphasizes your abdomen that makes it the perfect exercise to lose belly fat fast. Place a pillow on the ground and kneel down on it. This is to avoid any kind of injuries that may be caused to your knees. Sit back on your legs as you kneel. Relax your mind and close your eyes. Count to 10 and then begin to breathe. Exhale and count to 5, your stomach will feel empty. Hold this position for 2 seconds and then inhale. Repeat the same procedure 10 times every day.
4. Flying Stomach Lock
The flying stomach lock also called uddiyana bandha, is an advanced technique and one of the most functional ways to lose belly fat fast. But it can be practiced by experienced students of pranayama. Start off in a…
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Think of your bodies core as the central location that links your lower and upper body. No matter what kind of motion you are performing, the motions necessary will use your core muscles in one way or another. There are many benefits of engaging your core all day. You may not realize it but a lot of your daily activities are actually using your bodies core muscles. Engaging those core muscles daily offer many life long benefits that we can all use.
Increased Balance And Stability
A huge benefit to engaging your core all day is strengthening your overall body. Since the core is the key to all other movements, strengthening it can increase your bodies overall balance and stability. This is not only good for athletes but good for everyone. Increasing your balance and stability will make your daily tasks become easier.
Helps Prevent Injuries
Having a stronger midsection will help you avoid some of those painful injuries that you might have otherwise sustained. Having a solid core that you are engaging daily, will continue to strengthen your body as a whole and help you be able to avoid certain injuries.
Back Pain, Gone
Back pain is something that many people suffer from. One big reason for this is because they have a weaker core. As you begin to improve your bodies core, this will help your body to balance itself out better thus helping to relieve back pain. If you spend a lot of time in an office chair, try switching to a stability ball. This will help to engage your work while you are sitting.
One day, have a friend take a picture of you from the side while you are standing normal. Chances are most of us have a slouch while we stand. This is bad for your body. Engaging your core will help to strengthen your body as whole and will help improve your bodies posture. This will help you to stand straighter which can help you to look taller and slimmer.
Here are a few easy ways that you can engage your core on a daily basis:
- Laugh more. Laughing engages your core muscles. So enjoy all the funny things that life offers.
- Use your front abdominal muscles to pull up on the front of your pelvis, then bear down a little in order to push your abdomen back out.
- Use a stability ball while sitting. This is a great way to work on your core if you are required to sit for long periods of time.
Most women need to get their body fat percentage down to about 20 percent to uncover the abs they’ve worked so hard to strengthen, says Gentilcore, but that exact number is a little bit different for every woman since each one carries her fat in different areas. If you don’t carry it in your belly, consider yourself lucky. Remember that lower isn’t always better, though. Having too low of a body-fat percentage (generally about 16 percent or lower) can cause your estrogen levels to drop, your periods to cease, and your bones to weaken, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.
Also (and while it’s completely unfair!), it’s important to keep in mind that it’s easier for men to sport a six-pack than it is for women. “Women’s hormones program them to have a higher body-fat percentage than men,” says Gentilcore. So if you’re doing the same workout as your boyfriend and his stomach is more ripped than yours, don’t beat yourself up.
So how do you actually get your body fat percentage where it needs to be? Here’s how Gentilcore recommends prioritizing your plan of attack:
You need to burn more calories than you’re taking in to burn fat, and the most efficient way to do that is to practice clean eating, he says. Why? Think of it this way: To shave 500 calories from your day, you could either forgo that whipped cream-topped blended coffee beverage or spend about 45 minutes sweating it out on the treadmill. Which one seems easier to you?
MORE: 4 Foods That Burn Belly Fat
2. Strength Training
Multi-joint exercises like squats, rows, bench presses, and lunge variations are crucial to a six-pack. “These exercises train a lot of muscles, meaning you’ll have to work harder ,” says Gentilcore. You’ll also burn crazy calories both during and—since building muscle boosts your metabolism—after your workout. Bonus: Performing multi-joint moves requires you to use your core muscles to brace yourself and keep correct form, which means you’ll sculpt your abs while you’re burning fat. Still, when focusing on strength training, it’s important to incorporate core-specific moves, such as planks and cable chops, so that you have toned muscles to show off once that fat is burned.
MORE: A 5-Move Workout to Fire Up Your Muscles and Boost Your Metabolism
Getting your heart rate up is vital for your health, but when it comes to burning calories and uncovering those abs, it’s far less efficient than proper nutrition and strength training. Plus, compared to strength training, cardio tends to burn a greater number of calories from muscle. That said, you shouldn’t leave cardio out of your abs-training plan entirely. Circuits and high-intensity intervals can also help you carve a killer core, and they burn more calories (and in less time) than steady-state cardio.
MORE: 7 Reasons To Try High-Intensity Interval Training
From 20s to 60s, Here’s How 9 Women Got the Abs of Their Dreams
While some may see the journey to a six-pack as a superficial chase, they’re really much more than that. Flat abs aren’t just for athletes, models, and the genetically blessed — they’re a result of head-to-toe body care and love.
You may know some who have them as a result of good genes while others have them because of the many health choices they make. But as you age, especially as you enter your 40s, the paths to abs become more and more a result of commitment and hard work.
We spoke to nine women, from the ages of 29 to 62, about their journey to their “ideal abs.” No matter what motivation they started with, they all end up here: healthier, stronger, and loving life.
On being patient and finding time to achieve your goals
After Katrina Pilkington, 38, gave birth to her daughter one-and-a-half years ago, she stared at the mirror and wondered what in the world she should do to get back into shape.
“For me, it was about being patient. Your body goes through so much. It’s not just a matter of how hard you work or what you eat but letting your body get back to where you were,” she says.
In addition to slowly working on her mobility and strength, Pilkington also began to change her diet. For example, she switched to a primarily plant-based diet.
She also eliminated dairy because she noticed it made her breastfeeding daughter gassy. Without dairy, her daughter was less fussy, but Pilkington also noticed she herself was feeling less bloated too.
Now, 18 months after giving birth, she’s leaner than she was before she became a mother.
Pilkington’s plant-based diet
- whole foods
- plant-based protein
- meat, once a week
Pilkington credits her current success to her daughter.
“Before, it was about fitting into a bikini or a midriff dress. Abs were a great side effect of what I was doing,” she says. “Now, I want to be healthy for my daughter.”
The other key factor? Time, or lack of it. Pilkington fits her workouts in when and where she can. “My workouts need to be efficient and effective,” she says. Her sessions typically include a mix of cardio, intervals, plyometrics, strength, mobility, and flexibility. “It’s made me a better athlete.”
On achieving them through total commitment and hard work
Two years ago, Dawn Moore decided to challenge herself. “As you get older, it’s more about longevity and having the sustainability to do these things, not just when you’re 40 but when you’re 60 and 70,” she says.
While the 48-year-old nurse from Los Angeles ate healthy foods and enjoyed endurance sports and yoga, she wanted to step it up.
So she joined a local gym and began taking boot camp classes and lifting weights. As she started seeing gains in her strength, she finally decided to work toward her goal of strong abs with visible muscle definition.
She knew it would require a higher level of commitment — both in the gym and in the kitchen — and she was ready to go all-in.
This spring, Moore signed up for a two-month challenge at her gym. With the help of her coaches and a supportive community, she took on an intense training, clean eating (think lots of lean protein and vegetables, but no processed food or sugar), and carb-cycling program.
It was a lot of hard work, and Moore made sacrifices to achieve her abs goal — waking up early, working out late, saying no to happy hours, prepping meals, and bringing her own food while she traveled.
Her workouts easily spanned two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening. But she says it was worth it.
Moore’s weekly workout for abs
- cardio every day (she loves high-intensity spin classes)
- weight lifting, five days a week
- high-intensity interval training (HIIT) classes, three days a week
- rock climbing
Not only is she the leanest she’s been (her body fat percentage went down from 18.5 percent to 15.8 percent), but also her posture and gait have improved. She’s also grown mentally stronger. “I rediscovered that youthful fire to push my potential,” she reflects.
Don’t stress about abs “The more pressure you put on yourself to have this perfect body, the more your cortisol levels increases. You’re literally stressing yourself out instead of just focusing on doing the work.” — Katrina Pilkington, 37, mother
Now that she’s achieved her goal, Moore intends to keep cardio workouts and rock climbing in her schedule and scale back her strength training to three days a week. And she’ll loosen the reins on her diet, too, opting to count her macros and allowing herself some cheat meals.
“I want to know that each year is a celebration of the best health I can possibly achieve for myself,” she says.
On abs and their ever-changing angles
As an Instagram fitness megastar with 1.3 million followers, you’d assume that Anna Victoria would be all about her abs. But her physical transformation has been more focused on improving her health than changing how she looks or losing weight.
Victoria grew up eating fast food. In her early 20s, she says it took a toll on her health, forcing her to change her habits. In 2012, she decided to commit to a healthier diet and lifestyle along with exercise. Overall, she says that it took about nine months to see her body change to the one you see today.
But even with enviable abs, Victoria says her belly pooch is still there.
“It’s just my body type!” she acknowledges. “I’ve had to accept that everyone has a different body type and holds fat in different places.”
She also wants to send a clear message to her community: there’s a lot to posing on Instagram; don’t compare yourself to others.
“Typically, the images you see are very curated, intentional, posed, and perfect. They’re the 1 percent of someone’s life, if that! I wanted to show the “99 percent” and show a photo where I wasn’t posed and done up,” she reminds us.
This body love philosophy has shot her to social media fame. As the founder of the Body Love app, Victoria follows her own HIIT strength workouts and meal plan, tracking macros and following the 80/20 rule. While she likes to push herself, maintaining a balanced lifestyle is her priority.
“As I’ve gone through my fitness journey, lost body fat, strengthened my core and abdominal muscles, I am definitely proud, not so much of the lean tummy, but of the strength in my core,” she says. Abs aren’t just there for looks. They’re crucial for body support through daily life and can give you the confidence to carry yourself with purpose.
Your body doesn’t have to look “perfect” to love it.
On whether or not abs are really a sign of health
Alison Feller doesn’t want to see her abs. That’s because it means that she’s in the middle of a Crohn’s disease flare.
“It’s the only time in my life I have visible abs muscles, but only because I’m so malnourished and dehydrated,” the 33-year old freelance writer from West New York, New Jersey says.
“People who don’t know I’m sick always tell me how great I look. What they don’t know is that I feel like I’m dying inside. I don’t have a six-pack because I’m working my butt off for it and planking ‘round the clock — I only look that way because of my disease.”
Feller was diagnosed with Crohn’s at the age of seven, so she’s acutely aware of the constant shifts in her body. As an adult, she tends to carry weight around her midsection. The ever-changing numbers on the scale bring on conflicting feelings of wanting to look a certain way and what it means for her health.
“When I start to regain the weight I lost, it does something weird to me mentally. I’m thrilled to feel well, eat, and not run to the bathroom 30+ times a day. But it’s weird that, at the same time, clothes that looked great are tight again. The compliments stop,” she says.
She no longer expects her body to look a certain way. Her “ideal abs” are more about her insides than how she looks on the outside. On her healthy days, she takes advantage to do the best she can —whether that’s a run, a class, or a hike.
“I hope that no struggle or disease ever fully robs me of my motivation and the joy I get from a great sweat,” she says. “While yes, a flat stomach does make me feel strong and confident, nothing compares to how great I feel when I’m healthy.”
On how abs are made, not just in the kitchen, but also in your body
When Jamie Bergin started working with a health coach in March 2018, it wasn’t to reveal her abs or lose weight. She wanted to figure out why she was tired all the time.
“I know I run, have kids, and work, but I was always exhausted. I never seemed to bounce back like all those other mother runners,” says the 39-year old mother of two from New Brunswick, Canada.
Bergin tweaked her diet and discovered that she was sensitive to gluten and that caffeine was causing her inflammation.
She also learned to make smarter, quality food choices while she continued to train for a spring half marathon. The mother runner added strength training to her routine too, complementing her weekly Pilates sessions.
See a doctor
- Persistent bloating, along with other symptoms like fatigue, unexpected weight loss, or a tight abdomen, can be a sign of an underlying disease.
- If you have persistent bloating that doesn’t go away, try the elimination diet to check for food intolerances. This can help determine if foods are triggering your bloating or gut inflammation.
- If this doesn’t work, see a doctor. They can help determine what the cause is.
By the end of 28 days, Bergin lost seven pounds and regained her energy. “I was shocked by the weight loss. I thought I was in pretty good shape. I ran the Marine Corps Marathon and was training for a half marathon,” she says.
Plus, her abs started to become more defined. “I’ve never had visible abs muscles. I just wanted to be strong,” says Bergin. She plans to continue what she’s started and maybe see if she can reach her abs goals.
“It would be amazing to see especially because I’ve had two kids,” she says. Each week Bergin runs 35 to 40 miles, does two Pilates sessions, and aims for two strength training workouts. “I know I’m stronger than I have ever been in my life, and that’s very important to me,” she says.
On knowing when your abs are still great abs
Jody Goldenfield worked hard for her abs. Really hard.
As a child, she was heavy and teased for it. And so most of her life, Goldenfield thought that if she just looked a certain way, she would be happier and feel better about herself. “Right from the beginning, I never learned to like or love myself. I didn’t like the way I looked,” she says.
In her 20s, she got hooked on exercising, opting for cardio workouts and lifting weights. In her late 30s, she discovered bodybuilding and competed in two competitions. She also watched her diet, sticking with what she describes as a fairly restrictive, clean eating plan.
Even into her late 50s, Goldenfield still tried to keep her sculpted abs very defined and show them off on social media, but her muscular midsection still wasn’t the golden ticket to happiness.
“I’m conflicted because I really do like how they look. I like bigger muscles and a tighter stomach,” she says. But she also recognizes the mental toll her quest for toned abs has taken. “Don’t do it to make yourself feel better about you. Just having abs does nothing to correct the internal dialogue in your head.”
Right now, Goldenfield feels OK with where she is in her fitness journey, but she also wants other women to know that the lean, cut physique, while possible even as you get older, doesn’t come without a cost.
“It’s great to look good too, of course. There’s nothing wrong with that. But having physical goals as your primary goal very rarely brings you to a healthy place, mentally, and emotionally.” — Anna Victoria, 29, trainer
“I’m going to do what I can to look decent but not eat super restrictive. If I wanted the abs that I had a year ago, I would have to cut out so much,” she mentions.
To maintain her trim, muscular build, she knew she was going to have to eat better and exercise for the rest of her life — but now abs are not the only reason she wants to stay healthy.
“For me, staying healthy is about aging healthy and being injury-free so that I can have fun with my grandkids and be able to do things until I die.”
On having abs as a perk, not a goal
When Denise Harris first started working out consistently in college, she was convinced she had a hernia. The pain in her abdomen was so bad that she made an appointment with her doctor. Her doctor’s response after examining her?
“Those are your obliques, Denise,” Harris recounts.
From those early days of struggling to work out, Harris never imagined she’d eventually fall in love with fitness or make a career of it. The truth is, she just likes to move. She says that it’s this joy that keeps her motivated to sweat and to stay consistent.
“It’s the one time I’m truly in control and my mind isn’t racing. Afterward, for a solid hour or two, I have this joy,” she says. “Now I get to spread my love of fitness. I just want you to move. It doesn’t have to be fancy.”
Harris, who turns 50 later this year, didn’t start exercising to lose weight but admits that seeing definition in her arms and abs is a nice perk. While she says that it’s not as challenging for her to stay trim from the waist up (thanks to her build and genetics), she doesn’t do crunches all day.
Abs are inner strength“When you think about the word ‘core,’ core of your inner strength, from within. You’re actually training the inside of yourself to be strong first. If you focus less on the physical and focus more on the mental game, the physical part just happens.” — Dawn Moore, 48, nurse
“I’m not doing ab-centric work. Running or HIIT will lean out your abs,” she says, increasing muscle definition. She also works with a trainer. “Yes, I do enjoy the way it looks, but my core is literally my powerhouse,” she says.
Harris’s secret? Just move.
“It doesn’t matter what it is you’re doing. Just moving in some way is important,” she says. “I’m probably the most comfortable with myself that I’ve ever been. I’m healthy, strong, and able.”
On enjoying abs as a 15-year work-in-progress
If you looked at Amanda Brooks’s running blog and fitness posts, you’d think that the 36-year old Denver, Colorado, resident always sported a flat stomach. But in fact, she described her younger self as “definitely chubby.”
Growing up, Brooks didn’t know a lot of nutrition, and she ended up developing a “good food, bad food” mentality. She prioritized fat-free, low-calorie choices, thinking that was the best way to lose weight. But she never really slimmed down.
In college, Brooks picked up running. “Running gave me a different feeling about my body. It was hard, but I was choosing to do it, so for me, it was empowering,” she says.
But the real turning point came when she focused on what she ate. She started with eating seven to nine servings of fruits and veggies a day and shifted toward thinking about what she could eat. And that made all the difference.
Brooks continued to look for different ways to slip fruits and veggies into her diet— like adding zucchini in her bread and greens in her morning smoothie. “That alone made me feel so much better and made it easier to lose the weight and keep it off,” she says.
She lost 35 pounds and has kept it off for the past 15 years.
Today, Brooks runs roughly 35 miles a week and fits in two to three runner-specific strength training sessions, mixing in TRX, and bodyweight moves. She says that she’ll never have a six-pack and that’s OK. She loves her body for all that it allows her to do.
Do ab workouts burn belly fat? Ab-centric workouts can help build your core muscles and help you obtain more defined abs, but whether or not your abs show is a matter of body fat. While it’s impossible to target body fat, an active and healthy lifestyle may help you reach your goal.
On the mastery of weightlifting for powerhouse abs
Spending time outdoors in Colorado and using her body is just part of her DNA. And she wants to keep it that way.
Committing to a healthy and fit life has become more important as Balogh ages. She’s witnessed people around her slow down, and she’s determined to keep going. “I want to remain strong, not to be vain but physically strong. If I lose that strength, everything that I love will be taken away from me.”
Weight lifting, which she took up five years ago, has really changed how her body looks and feels.
Cathy Balogh’s workout
- 15 minutes on treadmill
- weight lifting twice a week
- regular yoga classes
“Being healthy and active allows you to enjoy life,” she says. “You have to keep lifting weights, doing yoga, walking, and doing it all or else, when you’re 75, you’re not going to be able to do it.”
So here it is
You may think that achieving abs is impossible, but the real story is that it can happen at any age, anytime. But more important is what these women realized on their journey: abs, while often a visual sign of physical health, don’t represent the total effort a person puts into their body.
Health is more than achieving a lean stomach and visible muscle definition.
“Whether it’s belly rolls, cellulite, stretch marks, and more, these things make us beautiful, they make us human, and they’re nothing to be ashamed of. It’s great to look good too, of course,” Victoria reminds us. “There’s nothing wrong with that. But having physical goals as your primary goal very rarely brings you to a healthy place, mentally, and emotionally.”
Christine Yu is a freelance writer, covering health and fitness. Her work has appeared in Outside, the Washington Post, and Family Circle, among others. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, or at christinemyu.com.
Getting a toned tummy is about exercising smart and eating the right foods.
Most girls I speak to on a daily basis all want to know how to flatten their tummy and tone up their abs. I’ve spent years working on my abs, figuring out the best formula to achieve a great midsection. What I’ve discovered is that it all comes down to three things: eating the right foods, exercising smarter, and proper digestion to remove any bloating. So, if you finally want to get the flat stomach, here are my key tips on how to tone up and de-bloat.
Tone up the tummy
When it comes to toning your waistline, you need to make sure you have a good exercise routine and that you fuel your body with the right foods. You can be a saint at the gym, but if you are not matching it with the right nutrients, then you may never get the flat midsection you desire.
Doing 100 crunches day after day is not going to result in a flat stomach. Toned abs come from doing a range of different exercises that target the core in different ways to help the body melt fat. I take on a more holistic approach to achieving a great midsection, implementing exercises other than just ab crunches to get my results. I combine strength sessions (that target the core and whole body) along with HIIT (to melt fat off) to reach these goals.
Related: Best Abs Ever With This Workout
Incorporating strength training into your exercise routine is definitely a key ingredient for achieving a toned tummy. Lifting weights helps the body build muscle; the more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism will be and the more fat you burn. That’s why I add weights into all of my workout programs. Please don’t worry girls— you aren’t going to bulk doing this either.
Having a flat tummy also comes down to reducing your body fat percentage. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) has been shown to be one of the most effective methods for shredding fat. A HIIT circuit is very simple. You take a handful of exercises and then perform each at high intensity, while keeping the rest between exercises to a minimum. The best thing about HIIT is that you can include exercises that target any body part you want. I like to create HIIT circuits that involve core, cardiovascular and resistance training in the one workout. By getting your heart rate up, you speed up your metabolism and help the body burn fat more effectively.
Eat the right foods
If you aren’t fueling your body with proper nutrients, you aren’t going to reap the rewards for all your hard work at the gym. A poor diet can often lead to feeling tired and lethargic. If you are undereating, this can also damage your metabolism. To get fit and feeling great, you need to eat a well-balanced whole food diet that will give your body proper nutrients. Starvation and deprivation diets will not work. To help tone up the belly, it’s good to stay away from foods like refined carbs. These foods spike your insulin levels, which then prevents fat burning in the body. Refined carbs are in foods like white bread, pasta, crackers, sugar and white rice. Replace refined carbs with healthy complex carbs from things like vegetables, sweet potatoes, brown rice or quinoa.
Related: Get Creative With Your Carbs
How to get rid of bloating
So many girls I speak to suffer from bouts of bloating. Some only get it every now and again, while others suffer from it on a daily basis. Nothing makes you feel more uncomfortable than having a swollen tummy. Bloating can come from many different things, but is mainly caused from improper digestion and poor food choices. Other causes can be eating too quickly, drinking carbonated drinks or overeating. I had years of experiencing bloating from undiagnosed food intolerances. Often after I ate, I felt terrible and was in major pain. Over the years, I learned a thing or two on how to deal with bloating when it occurs.
Drink apple cider vinegar to help with digestion
Apple cider vinegar is a great way to help the body prevent bloating, as it kick starts the digestion process in the stomach. Just have one tablespoon in a glass of room temperature water before each meal.
There are a lot of herbal teas you can drink that help improve digestion and get rid of bloating. Some of my favorite teas are peppermint, licorice and chamomile tea. Adding in fresh ginger root can also help reduce inflammation.
Related: Fuel Your Body With These Snacks
A major cause of bloating can come from an imbalance of good or bad bacteria in your gut. This generally happens when you have been on antibiotics. When the bacteria in your gut are out of balance, it can lead to all kinds of digestive problems. Taking a good quality probiotic daily, can help restore the balance and get rid of the bloat.
Check your protein powders
So many protein powders on the market can cause tummy upset. I’ve tried my fair share and there wasn’t many that I could actually tolerate. A lot of protein powders have all sorts of fillers and additives that don’t agree with people and cause bloating. Many protein powders are also commonly made from whey and soy protein, which many people are intolerant too. I prefer to get protein from whole foods as much as I can. If I do need a protein boost, then my rule is to stick to a clean, organic protein powder that doesn’t have any weird additives and fillers. I personally go vegan as I can’t tolerate lactose.
Hope you found some of these tips useful so you can start working your way towards a flatter toned tummy.
What the Heck Is Stomach Vacuuming?
I recently heard someone talk about “stomach vacuuming” to help flatten the tummy. The first thing to pop up in my crazy brain was someone getting liposuction, but I was pretty sure they weren’t talking about plastic surgery.
Even though I’ve been in the fitness industry for over twenty years, I had never heard of stomach vacuuming before. As far as I knew, stomach vacuuming was nothing more than attaching a vacuum hose to your belly. I have a very short torso and have always struggled with having somewhat of a pooch, so I was immediately intrigued. Besides, what girl isn’t eager to check out a new ab-flattening trend? The investigation began.
How It Works
To my surprise, I did not have to pull out my credit card and order some awkward stomach vacuum device. Not only did stomach vacuuming not include an actual vacuum, there was no shortage of information on the topic. The stomach vacuum was an actual exercise, and the Internet was riddled with websites and instructional videos on how to perform the mysterious stomach vacuum.
When I watched one of the how-to videos online, it found it incredibly difficult not to giggle. I was expecting so much more than someone just breathing out all their air and sucking in their abs. However, that was pretty much the extent of the exercise.
The stomach vacuum exercise requires you inhale as much air as possible and then exhale as much as possible, while sucking your stomach in as much as possible. After you blow out all your air, you hold this position for at least 20 seconds (while, get this, attempting to breathe normally) and repeat for several sets.
The concept behind the stomach vacuum exercise is it targets the deeper abdominal muscles, called the transverse abdominals. These muscles act like a girdle to the waist, which are responsible for holding your stomach in tight.
While the whole stomach vacuuming terminology was new to me, I’ve done this exercise for years. Even though I never realized it was actually a true exercise, it was something I did throughout the day (like while driving my car). I would contract my stomach muscles and hold them tight while sitting at a red light to help train my stomach muscles to stay flat.
After doing more research, I discovered the stomach vacuum exercise had been around for a very long time. Maybe it recently reached fad status after making a few appearances in some popular magazines, like Shape and Men’s Fitness. Who knows what makes something rise to the top of the fad chart, but at least this fad has some validity to it.
Pros and Cons
Could the stomach vacuum be the answer to your poochy problems? No doubt, this exercise does work the transverse abdominals. You can feel the muscles working as you do it. And, if you are not used to working the transverse abdominals, you may even be sore afterwards. However, I wouldn’t count on it fixing all your tummy troubles.
The process of sucking in stomach and flexing your abdominal muscles for a few seconds is called an isometric contraction. During an isometric exercise, the muscles do not noticeably change in length and actually require little to no movement at all. Isometric training (like a wall sit or plank exercise) definitely has its place and can increase strength, but only to a certain point. Your body will adapt to the training and you’ll eventually need something more to continue making improvements.
In addition, stomach vacuuming won’t fix belly fat. Most people who have bulging bellies are fighting two different battles – a battle with weak abdominal muscles along with poor posture and another battle with food. You can do all the stomach vacuuming you want, but don’t expect visible results if you continue to be a food vacuum. If you don’t change your eating habits you will not only keep the fat around your belly, it will be harder to hold your stomach in with a stuffed gut.
Lastly, stomach vacuuming is not the best exercise for everyone. Like all isometric exercises, stomach vacuuming can be dangerous for some people because it increases blood pressure more than other traditional exercises.
The Bottom Line: Fit or Flop?
Working your transverse abdominals is essential to having nice abs, but so is reducing body fat. Used alone, stomach vacuuming would flop. However, combine this exercise with a lean diet, cardio and resistance program, and you will likely find stomach vacuuming to be a good Fit!
Needless to say, I’ll be adding stomach vacuuming back in my daily commute to work again.
Fit Tip: Top 10 Tummy Tightening Exercises
Stomach vacuuming isn’t the only exercise to work your transverse abdominals. Here is a list of my favorite top 10 tummy tightening exercises.
2. Side Plank
3. Ab Roller
4. Diagonal Knee Plank (Slow Cross Body Mountain Climbers)
5. Swiss Ball Pike
6. Swiss Ball Jackknife
7. Swiss Ball Roll-Out
8. Plank Up Up Down Down
9. Side Plank Pulses
POWER PLANK WORKOUT
Try this plank workout demonstrated by my husband, Steve Pfiester.
5 Push Ups
5 2-Point Stance (5 on each side, 10 total)
5 Side Plank with Abduction (Leg Lift) LEFT
5 Crab Leg Lifts on each side (10 total)
5 Side Plank with Abduction (Leg Lift) RIGHT
45 Second Plank Hold
Repeat 3-4 times with little to no rest in between.
Tackle the Unexpected Leak™ – It’s All About Your Core
It’s a common concern that it’s hard it is to make it to the gym on a consistent basis. That’s why we recommend a simple, easy-to-learn exercise that doesn’t require any weights or equipment. And the best part is you can do it in the comfort of your own home. The exercise we’re talking about is the Stomach Vacuum. Benefiting not only your pelvic floor muscles but your core as well, this workout is a perfect example of a pelvic floor strengthening exercise you can do on a daily basis. The stomach vacuum works the TA (transverse abdominis), which is the layer of muscle behind your rectus abdominis or “six-pack”. Not only does it work on your core, it’s cardiovascular exercise, provides increased flexibility and builds muscle strength as well. You’re sure to feel the physical benefits (healthy heart, increased mobility and range of motion) as well as the emotional rewards of active living (positive attitude, improved mood, reduced stress). But let’s discuss the core a little further as it’s an instrumental muscle group in building stability and strengthening your bladder.
A significant component to the core is the innermost muscle of the abdomen, located immediately beneath the internal oblique muscle. This muscle helps to compress the ribs, providing pelvic stability.
Achieving pelvic stability is key in strengthening the pelvic floor. And as a bonus, working this muscle enhances muscular definition in your abs. So, not only are you experiencing functional benefits, you’re also reaping aesthetic advantages. The efficiency we men love.
So, about the Stomach Vacuum. The name may turn heads, but, you might too after perfecting this exercise. What exactly is the stomach vacuum? The stomach vacuum is a weightless exercise you can perform to improve the strength of your core, and your pelvic floor. The vacuum works the transverse abdominis, the layer of muscle behind that six-pack you’re hiding. As you build this muscle, you’ll be gaining more postural support. In addition, you’re newly added strength will assist in ‘pulling in’ your internal organs and giving you a slimmer waistline and more abdominal control. The Stomach Vacuum is also a pelvic floor muscle exercise (PFME), which involves the contraction and relaxation of the pelvic floor muscles to improve bladder support and closure pressure of the urethra. The pelvic floor muscles, together with the muscles of the lower back and abdomen, make up the core muscles and act like the strings in a hammock to support the surrounding structures of the pelvis. These muscles are also responsible for cutting off the flow of urine from the bladder and support the bladder and intestines. So, with a stronger pelvic floor, you’ll be able to have more control of the flow of urine passing through the bladder.
The exercise is quite simple. Here’s how to do it:
- The stomach vacuum can be performed either with your hands and knees on the floor or standing upright with your hands resting on a table – it’s important your back stays curved during this exercise
- First, blow out all the air from your lungs and squeeze your diaphragm
- Next, suck in your stomach and try to expand your lungs as if you were breathing in. But don’t let in any air!
- Use your diaphragm to suck in your stomach tightly (think of the iconic body builder pose, this should help with your form)
- Hold this for about 10 seconds
- Next, release and take a few deep breaths to recover
- Repeat the exercise
- Start off with 3 sets of 5 repetitions
Watch the stomach vacuum in action
How to Get a Flat Stomach in 10 Minutes
Moms everywhere know the struggle of post-baby bulge, or that extra bit of flab that leaves their bellies wiggly and jiggly. It seems like all of the crunches in the world can’t flatten their stomachs again.
Still, few know the scientific term behind this common complaint. Also called diastasis recti, it occurs during pregnancy as the growing baby pushes the mother’s abdominal muscles apart in the space around her belly button. The lucky moms will watch this spot stretch back on its own, but in others, the gap often stays open after birth. As a result, organs and tissue bulge out of your middle, causing the “mummy tummy.” (Here are 10 things you should never say to a pregnant woman.)
Simply realigning those abdominal muscles will cause the stomach to flatten again, experts say. But to get results fast, there’s one simple, 10-minute exercise for a slimmer waistline—and you won’t even need to leave your home to do it. (You can also try these ways to lose belly fat, according to a Victoria’s Secret model trainer.)
First, sit cross-legged on the floor with your hands on your belly and take a deep breath, letting your stomach fully expand. Then, as you exhale, suck in your belly muscles as far back as you can toward the ground.
With your stomach flattened against your spine, start taking deep breaths and push your stomach back further and further with each exhale. Do so for 10 minutes. (If your squats don’t follow these steps, you’re doing them wrong.)
Done! Until tomorrow, at least. And so far, the exercise has shown incredible results. A small pilot study conducted by developers Leah Keller, a personal trainer, and Dr. Geeta Sharma, an OB-GYN at Weill Cornell Medical Center-New York Presbyterian Hospital, tracked the progress of 63 women with “jelly belly.” After 12 weeks of doing the exercise for 10 minutes per day, all of the women had fixed their diastasis recti. Some even lost a few inches to their waistlines, too.
“We had patients that were even one year out from giving birth, and they still had such great benefit from the exercises,” Sharma says. “We love to see that there is something we can do to help women.”
Although this exercise hasn’t been tested on men or women who haven’t been pregnant, something tells us that it’s definitely worth a shot.
No gym membership? No problem. Here are 15 benefits of walking for just 15 minutes.
Originally published as The One Exercise That Will Flatten Your Stomach in 10 Minutes on ReadersDigest.com.