The Six-Pack. (No, not the beer.) Of course we're talking about those super-toned abs that seem to only exist on exercise equipment infomercials and David Beckham. The pursuit of a flat stomach—let alone anything resembling a six-pack—can be a difficult goal for many, despite a well-rounded workout routine. And while pursuing the rock-hard abs of action heroes may be a little excessive, there actually are important reasons for making sure you have a strong core and a flat belly.
Research shows that people who hold more excess weight around their waist are more likely to suffer from serious illnesses like diabetes and heart disease. A weak core also may make you more prone to frequent back injuries and challenges with overall strength.
And while you may think stomach crunches are the best way to get yourself a strong and flat core, there's actually a lot more to it that can make the change happen noticeably faster:
1. Cardio: If you're holding excess weight around the midsection—even if the rest of your body is well-toned—frequent cardio workouts are one of the best ways to help burn off that excess fat. Jogging, spin or a high-intensity yoga class can help you lose that excess weight, fast.
2. Mix up your crunches: There's no doubt that crunches are one of the easiest ways to strengthen your stomach, but a few things to consider: First, if you have a lot of excess belly fat, it will not just disappear from crunches alone, so it's really important that you include other exercise (as noted above). There are also lots of crunch techniques that will work your stomach muscles in a variety of ways. Try raising and lowering your legs stretched out straight in front of you and hovering them just above the ground as you bring them down. If that's too difficult at first, work one leg at a time.
3. MUFAs: Mono-unsaturated fatty acids have been shown to be highly effective at reducing and preventing excess belly weight. Yes, they're found in fatty foods like avocadoes, olive and coconut oil, nuts and seeds, and experts recommend eating some sort of MUFA at every single meal to reduce your risk of diseases connected with excess belly weight.
4. Hydrate!: Women can be especially sensitive to bloating and water weight. But that is usually always a temporary condition. The more important result is proper hydration, which keeps your digestion working properly. And often times our body's craving for belly-expanding junk foods can actually be a sign that we're dehydrated.
5. Chill Out: Studies have shown that when we're stressed, we release cortisol, a chemical that can actually cause us to store fat in our bellies. Creating a daily environment that's free from stress (or as close to it as you can get), can help not just with achieving your ideal flat stomach, but it can also reduce your risk of more serious health problems. Read, take a hike, get a massage, lay in a hammock, garden or meditate regularly to reduce your stress levels and get that strong core!
Image: Perfecto Insecto
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