Lifestyle Lessons from Masters Athletes

How to flatten the stomach

September 6, 2008, Palm Beach Post, How to flatten the stomach, by Dr. Paul Donohue.

Dear Dr. Donohue: You wrote a column about abdominal exercises and wrote that sit-ups do not take fat away from the abdomen. Would you repeat what you said?

Everyone wants to get rid of a stomach bulge, and everyone looks for the perfect exercise to achieve that goal. There is no perfect stomach exercise, but there are many good ones. And stomach exercises don't selectively remove fat from the stomach. They remove fat from all fat deposits. That's true of any exercise. Stomach exercises do strengthen the abdominal muscles. Strong abs keep the stomach flat by holding stomach organs in place like a natural corset.

Dr. Peter Francis of San Diego State University compared various stomach exercises to determine which is the best overall exercise and found that the bicycle exercise is best. It's done by lying on the floor with the lower part of the back pressed to the floor. The knees are bent at a 45 degree angle. Then the legs move as they would move in pedaling a bike. When the right knee is in the pedal motion that brings it to the position that corresponds to the topmost position on a bike, bring the left elbow toward the right knee. And when the left knee is in that position, bring the right elbow toward it. Keep this up for as long as you can. If you can manage only two pedal motions at first, stick with it until you're doing 10, 20 or more.

Second best on Dr. Francis' list is the captain's chair exercise. It calls for equipment found only in gyms, so I won't give you the details.

Third is the crunch. You assume the lying-on-the-floor position and bend the knees to a 90-degree angle. Then draw your chest toward your knees. Return to the starting position and repeat as many times as you can. You can make this a little easier by resting your lower legs on the seat of a chair.

To flatten the stomach, you also have to flatten the inward curve of the lower back. Stand against a wall and assume a posture that gets the lower back as close to the wall as possible. Try to maintain that posture throughout the day.

Fat loss comes from aerobic exercise and calorie watching. Aerobic exercise is brisk walking, jogging, swimming, bike-riding or similar activities.

Write Dr. Donohue at P.O.Box 536475,

Orlando, Fla. 32853-6475.

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