The truth: The belly is a bad place to pack on pounds. That’s because excess visceral fat—found deep within the abdomen—increases major health risks (heart disease, type 2 diabetes, even dementia). One study revealed that normal-weight women with bigger bellies had a 48 percent higher risk of premature death than their slim-stomach counterparts.
Luckily, you can take control of that gut. "Cutting portion sizes, reducing saturated fats, and exercising more will all help," says Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, associate professor of medicine at NYU School of Medicine.
Adds Cynthia Sass, RD, "Foods rich in monounsaturated fats, such as avocados, extra-virgin olive oil, and nuts, have been shown to help ward off belly fat, as have beans, lentils, and peas."
Performing ab-centric moves is also key, says star trainer Tracy Anderson. But you’ve got to hit the muscles from every angle. "It’s not just about the front of the abs, the rectus abdominis," she explains. "You have to also get the obliques, the transverse abdominis—which acts as a girdle—and the lower back muscles working together."
This series does just that. Do 30 reps of each move in the series on one side, then repeat the sequence on the other side. Don't forget your 30 to 60 minutes of cardio six times a week to watch your dream abs take shape.
Walk-Around Plank and Lunge
Start in a deep lunge with left leg forward (knee turned slightly out), right hand on floor, and left hand on left knee (A). Step right leg forward as you press hips up, coming onto left toes while keeping left knee bent (B). Return to "A," place both hands down, and extend left leg back and diagonally up (C). Return to "A" and repeat.
Alternating Crab Jump Hip Lift
Start seated with feet on floor and hands on either side of butt. Lift hips and extend left arm up (A). Lower hips slightly and step right leg back as you place left hand on floor; hop feet over to the other end of mat (B). Come into bridge position with right arm extended up (C). Continue alternating.
Lunge to Down Dog Arabesque
Kneel, then step right leg forward, place left hand on floor, and extend right arm straight back (A). Step right leg back until it’s fully extended with toes on floor; bring right hand to floor (B). Push up onto right leg, lifting hips and extending left leg straight up (C). Return to "A" and repeat.
Plank With Knee Pull to Bridge
Start in a plank with legs wide (A). Rotate body to face right, coming into side plank as you lift left knee toward chest and slightly twist hips to tap right hand to left thigh (B). Return to "A," then step right foot over left foot to rotate torso as you push hips up into bridge position; extend right hand up (C). Return to "A" and repeat.
Parallel Knee Pull-In Side Plank
Start in side plank with feet and hips stacked, right hand on hip (A). Bend right knee and bring it up (B). Return to "A" and repeat.
Side Plank to Hydrant Arabesque
Start on all fours. Lift right arm toward ceiling and bring right knee toward shoulder so right thigh is parallel with floor (A). Swing right leg back, extending it (B). Lower right leg down so ball of right foot touches floor and place right hand on floor (C). Twist torso to face left, pushing hips up, extending left arm up, and reaching left foot to floor as you press into side plank (D). Rotate body back down to return to starting position. Repeat.
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