Shrewd Living

Last Updated: 04/13/2014 13:05 PST

The 5 Surprising Best Exercises to Lose Belly Fat…No, Not Crunches!

For many of us, it’s too elusive–those flat, six pack abs that grace the cover of fitness and diet magazines (and unfortunately, not us).

With an obesity rate that continues to climb in the United States, it’s clear most of us don’t have our bodies under control either.

“So in one sense, the obesity crisis is the result of simple math. It’s a calories in, calories out calculation,” says Cathy Newman, a senior writer for National Geographic. “The First Law of Fat says that anything you eat beyond your immediate need for energy, from avocados to ziti, converts to fat.”

And indeed, this is true–research shows that although our calorie needs are not increasing, we are moving less and eating less of the good stuff (which, coincidentally, contains fewer calories) in lieu of a greasy, fast food lifestyle. As a result, our body fat levels are skyrocketing at a cost that leaves our health–and any hope of a defined midsection–out in the cold.

How to Get That Elusive Six Pack

Most of us have it wrong when it comes to ab work: We either think endless amounts of crunches will do the job, or that eating only peas and lean meat is the real secret to a defined physique.

Yet, according to exercise scientists, this isn’t necessarily true. Instead, what really gets us those washboard abs are two factors: Lower body fat and an exercise program that develops the abdominal muscles.

Decreasing your body fat is a simple matter of losing weight slowly (lose too much and you also risk losing muscle), but exercise? It’s something that not even personal trainers can agree on.

Exercises for Losing Belly Fat

So crunches are the key to losing belly fat, right? Surprisingly, it’s not. According to a study by San Diego State University, traditional crunches were considered one of the least effective ab workouts, ranked at #11 out of 13 exercises, faring just slightly better than the Ab Rocker.

What fared better in their analysis were more complicated forms of crunches, as well as other ab exercises largely ignored by the fitness industry. Both vertical leg and long arm crunches were considered the most effective, as well as the exercise ball–a device used to increase core strength while performing abdominal moves.

It also showed, much to the chagrin of exercise companies, that abdominal machines or contraptions often fail to be effective. Both the Ab Roller and Ab Rocker, often marketed as an easier way to get “six pack abs,” performed poorly.

Like most things in life, shortcuts won’t get you everything–such as a leaner physique.

The Best Exercises For Belly Fat

Ready to feel the burn? To make that elusive belly fat go away for good, here are some of the best exercises researchers recommend:

Remember proper form too: Doing an exercise incorrectly is just as bad as doing an exercise that’s not effective at all.


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