It seems that we place a lot of importance on taut, flat stomachs. Every day, advertisements promise to help us “Get a firm belly”, or “Get sculpted abs”. What they don’t tell us is that belly fat isn’t just unattractive, it’s hazardous to your health.
Numerous studies have found a link between belly flab and high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Measure your waist to see if you have a dangerous level of abdominal fat. For optimal health, men should have a waist circumference below 40 inches. Women should have a waist circumference below 35 inches.
Here are some proven techniques to help you get a firm belly and reduce dangerous abdominal fat:
Move More, Eat Right
Exercise doesn’t have to be done at a gym. You can burn calories while you participate in activities that you consider fun or fulfilling. For example, gardening burns several hundred calories per hour. Team sports, like flag football, burn even more. Swimming is also a great fat-burner, and fun to boot. You could also do volunteer work, or just take long walks down nature trails.
Cardio exercise will kick your fat-burning metabolism into overdrive. All it requires is persistence; if you can find an activity you like, and stick with it, the pounds will melt away. It’s also important to vary your routine for maximum calorie burning, and to ward off boredom.
There are several exercises you can do to get a firm belly. The American Council on Exercise did a study to find out which exercises targeted the abs most effectively. Their findings? Supine bicycle, captain’s chair leg lifts, and vertical leg crunches work the abs harder than any other exercise. Twisting crunches and exercise ball crunches were other good ones. Try doing those exercises several times a week to get a firm belly and whittle your waistline. An Internet search will turn up detailed step-by-step tutorials for each exercise.
There are foods that can help you get a firm belly, too. Sugary carbs contribute to belly fat build-up, but foods high in protein and fiber are slenderizing. Look for a diet plan comprised mostly of complex carbs, lean protein sources, and unsaturated fats. South Beach is a classic example, and similar diets have come on the market in recent years.
Learn to Relax
Who would have thought that you could get a firm belly while you relax? It’s possible with the help of yoga. Yoga has a two-fold effect on our bellies. First, it reduces high stress levels that lead to weight gain. Stress-induced weight gain often results in excess belly fat. Reducing your stress level can give you a flatter stomach and lower your risk for many diseases.
Yoga also tones the stomach muscles. Look for a yoga routine that includes supine poses and other postures that work the abdominal muscles. Check out a yoga DVD from your local library, or look for free video tutorials online. You will be able to tell right away if a particular pose targets the stomach area. To get a firm belly faster, design your own routine using the most effective belly-busting poses.
As you can see, it takes a little effort to get a firm belly — but the rewards are well worth it.