Exercises to Trim Belly Fat
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Carrying extra weight around the waist is common for people with pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes, but it doesn't have to be that way. As a matter of fact, trimming your belly fat will not only help you look and feel better, it can also help reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Making your abdominal muscles stronger has another advantage as well: They support the lower back and hold you upright. Continual poor posture puts these muscles to sleep, leaving you with a belly bump as well as an aching back.
A good ab workout will tighten your midsection and emphasize other large muscles of your body in a way that increases your metabolism (to burn fat) and improves your posture (to make you look longer and leaner).
Use these 15 belly fat-burning exercises to strengthen your abdominal and back muscles. Work them into your activity routine two or three times a week with a day of rest in between.
A: Lie on your back with knees bent, feet on the floor. Rest your hands by your sides with palms facing down. Inhale and tighten your abdominal area (imagine drawing your belly button into your spine).
B: As you exhale, slowly pull your bent left knee in toward your abs for a count of two (up, up). Slowly lower the left leg for a count of two (be sure to move from your hip, not your knee), tap your toes, and lift your leg again. Perform 12 repetitions with each leg.
A: Lie on your back with legs in the air, knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Place your fingertips just behind your ears to support your head. Slowly lift your head, neck, shoulders, and rib cage off the floor, tightening your abdominal muscles (imagine pulling your belly button in toward your spine). Maintain a slight nod in your neck, but don't pull.
Note: If the intensity is too great, place your feet flat on the floor and perform the crunches from that foot position.
B: Slowly lower yourself to the floor. Be sure to lift your shoulders up and off the floor with each repetition, feeling the contraction in the abdominal area. Perform 25 repetitions.
A: Lie on your back with knees bent, feet on the floor. Place your fingertips just behind your ears to support your head and point your elbows out to the sides. Slowly lift your head, neck, shoulders, and rib cage off the floor, tightening your abdominal muscles (imagine pulling your belly button in toward your spine). Maintain a slight nod in your neck, but don't pull.
B: Rotate your torso and tap your left elbow against your right knee while extending your left leg. Repeat on the other side. This is one repetition. Perform six repetitions.
Note: If you have lower-back pain, perform these crunches with feet on the floor, lifting your bent knee to tap your elbow from that position. If you have knee or hip pain, remember that it's not critical for you to fully extend the leg, so maintain a soft or bent knee throughout the exercise.
Lie on your back with knees bent, feet on the floor, and arms at your sides, palms down. Lift your right leg until it is perpendicular to the floor, keeping your knee slightly bent (don't lock the joint). With your toes pointed, make small circles (about the size of a dinner plate) with your leg, rotating from the hip. Inhale as you begin each circle and exhale as you finish. Keep your body as still as possible. Perform six clockwise circles and six counterclockwise. Repeat with the other leg.
A: Lie on your back with legs in the air, knees bent at a 90-degree angle, and arms extended in a T shape. Lift your arms straight up over your shoulders and bring your hands together.
B: Lower your knees to the left side and lower your right arm to the floor. As soon as your right arm touches the floor, bring it back up to the center of your body and simultaneously return the knees to center. Repeat on the other side. Perform eight repetitions on each side.
A: Lie on your back with knees bent, feet on the floor, and arms at your sides. Tighten your abdominal muscles and lift your head, shoulders, and arms off the floor.
B: Slowly sweep your arms to the sides, rotating your palms up as you move.
C: With control, sweep your arms overhead, as if reaching for something behind you. Pull your arms back to starting position to complete one repetition. Perform 8-10 repetitions.
Note: If you have lower-back pain, progress through this exercise slowly and carefully. If you feel any pain, talk with your doctor before continuing. To decrease the intensity of the exercise, reach with one arm at a time and use the other hand to support your head (try to use only your fingertips for support, however, so you keep your ab muscles engaged).
A: Lie on your right side with your knees bent and together. Extend your right arm and let your head rest on that arm while your left elbow is bent, fingertips on your head.
B: Flex your left side and bring your left knee to your left elbow. Perform 15 crunches on each side.
A: Sit with your ankles crossed and your left hand flat on the floor, in line with your left shoulder. Place your right foot flat on the floor just in front of your left foot. Point your right knee toward the ceiling.
B: Pull your abdominals in and press into your left hand to lift your hips off the floor. As you come up onto your left knee, raise your right arm over your head so you form a line from your fingers to your toes. Hold for 10 seconds, lower, and repeat on the other side.
Reverse Oblique Crunch
A: From a seated position, lean back slightly with your knees bent, heels planted firmly on the floor, body weight evenly distributed between both hips. Tuck your chin slightly, draw in your abdominal muscles, and extend your arms in front of you.
B: Rotate to the right through the waistline and pull your right elbow back. Return to center. Rotate to the left and pull your left elbow back. That is one repetition. Perform 8-10 repetitions.
A: From a seated position, lean back slightly with your knees bent, feet flat, and hands on the floor behind you. (For a wider, more stable base of support, spread your feet apart.) Draw in your abdominal muscles and lift your left arm while twisting your torso to the right. Keep your back straight; don't slouch.
B: Lower your left arm and return to center. Lift your right arm and twist your torso to the left. That is one repetition. Perform 10-15 repetitions.
Plank Pose to Downward-Facing Dog
A: Start in knees-down plank position with your body in a straight line from head to knees. Keep your back straight and draw in your abdominal muscles (imagine pulling your belly button in toward your spine).
B: With your hands planted, lift your hips up as high as you can to form an inverted V, and then return to knees-down plank position. Perform two sets of 10 repetitions.
A: Get on your hands and knees. Make sure your hands are directly under your shoulders and knees are under your hips. Lift your right hand and place your fingertips behind your right ear. Your elbow should be bent straight out to the side.
B: Rotate your upper body slightly to the left, allowing the elbow to touch or almost touch the inside of the left arm. Return to center. Perform six repetitions on the right side, then switch to the left side for six more.
A: Get on your hands and knees. Position your hands directly under your shoulders, palms open, fingers spread, and knees directly under your hips. Keep your back straight and draw in your abdominal muscles. Lift your left arm in front of you to about ear height, keeping your thumb up as if you were about to shake hands.
B: Straighten and lift your right leg behind you to about hip height. Hold the posture for 30 seconds. Slowly lower your left arm and right leg and lift the opposite arm and leg. Perform four repetitions on each side.
Note: If you have lower-back pain, extend only your arms and keep your knees on the floor.
Modified Plank Pose
Lie face down and bring your hands under your shoulders. With hands shoulder width apart, press your body up toward the ceiling (like in the top phase of a knees-down push-up), drawing in your abdominal muscles. As you lift your body off the ground and onto your knees (and you can stay on your elbows if you prefer), contract your abdominals and relax your shoulders. Your body will fall into a line from your head down to your knees. Remember to breathe and relax your neck. Hold for 10-30 seconds.
Kneel on the floor with knees hip width apart, the tops of your feet flat on the floor, and sit back on your heels. With hands hip width apart, move forward and rest your forehead on the floor, relaxing your head and shoulders while extending your arms and fingertips. For a deeper stretch, spread your knees apart and allow your body to sink lower to the floor.
Irene Lewis-McCormick, M.S., CSCS, is a subject-matter expert for the American Council on Exercise and a member of the Diabetic Living advisory board.