Pagano, author of the newly released fitness book 15 Minute Abs Workout and directing founder of Joan Pagano Fitness Group, says "Women rank protruding bellies, expanding waistlines and flabby abs as three top trouble spots."And it isn't just the 20-something single college crowd who seek slimmer waists. The ACSM certified fitness professional, who has been in practice for more than 20 years, says fab abs are a fitness desire for people of all ages — from 15 to 95 years old — males and females.
According to Pagano, the torso, particularly the abdominals, is the most challenging area of the body to keep in shape. However, the right combination of exercises coupled with a healthy diet and balanced exercise program can tighten those hard to tone abs and boost your health, too.
If you've been disappointed by the many abs flattening routines you see in health and fitness magazines or on TV — you know the ones, with the fit chick sporting a serious washboard belly — it may be because you need a different approach to a toned tummy.Pagano looks beyond the six-pack philosophy and recommends a core training approach to fab abs, meaning endless crunches are out, and training your major torso muscles is in."The four routines in this book offer a unique blend of exercises, including some techniques from yoga, Pilates and physical therapy. The exercises target the midsection from every angle, using a variety of positions to give you the best results, both aesthetically and functionally," she explains.
Core training and functional fitness have become the fitness norm with many health, fitness and sports professionals and is viewed as a celebrity fitness secret (try these celebrity workout tips). And with good reason: Viewing your body as a system and training major muscle groups to work together is not only an efficient way of exercising, it is effective in giving you full body fitness. (Click for 10 functional exercises for full body fitness.)"Core training is an integrated approach to working the muscles of the torso and pelvis, training them to function as a unit, instead of in isolation," says Pagano. "The abdominals and spinal extensors are key players in core training, providing support for the spine and maintaining its proper alignment. As you tone your abs, you also develop core strength, which improves your posture, creates support for the low back and relieves upper-back and neck pain."You may be striving for a tight tummy to better your appearance, but a toned torso provides so much more. A strong core provides stamina, stability and power in your everyday activities and it helps you look and feel better.
Experts warn that belly fat is the most unhealthy type of fat to have on your body. Pagano concurs, "Fat found deep in the abdomen is the real culprit. The enzymes in abdominal fat cells are very active, allowing fat to move easily into and out of the cells. The greater amount of fat in the abdominal cavity, the greater amount that can be dumped into the bloodstream, contributing to high cholesterol levels and heart disease."Pagano refers to abdominal fat as "toxic fat" and recommends exercise to get rid of it. She says, "Visceral fat is easier to reduce than fat from your thighs. It responds more rapidly to exercise and diet because it is more active and breaks down more quickly."Further, research shows that exercise reduces the size of fat cells in the belly more effectively than dieting alone and that it also prevents fat from being stored in the organs and muscles.
Though Pagano's core training program is designed to take 15 minutes, don't expect to get a six-pack on 15 minutes alone. Pagano recommends supplementing your abdominal exercises with regular cardio activity — 30 minutes five days a week — and a healthy diet.The 15 Minute Abs Workout, which is appropriate for all fitness levels, is divided into four 15-minute routines: Crunch, Beach Ball, Core Basics, and Core Challenge. In addition, Pagano describes the anatomy of your core and provides assessments for you to track your abs strengthening progress.If you tend to bore easily with exercise, 15-Minute Abs Workout gives you a wide variety of abdominal exercises. Pagano concludes, "Each 15-minute workout presents different challenges. You can work through the routines as a progression — do each routine for four weeks before moving on to the next, combine them and/or rotate them to keep your exercise routine fresh and motivating."For step by step illustrations of Pagano's 15-minute abs routines, pick up her book 15 Minute Abs Workout. The book also comes with a DVD.
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