Jan. 3, 2006 -- Ahhh, the paunch. It's one of the most elusive parts of the body when it comes to weight loss. In fact, 60 percent of men and women want toned abs more than any other muscular trait.
Dave Zinczenko, author of "The Abs Diet Get Fit, Stay Fit Plan," said that people needed to be more realistic about weight loss. The process is not as daunting as everyone thinks. Three or four times a week at the gym is all it takes.
If people don't have time for that, they can do physical chores, like snow shoveling, which will burn 100 calories in 10 minutes to 15 minutes, compared to 20 minutes to 30 minutes of aerobics. People can also climb stairs rather than take the elevator. Taking the stairs is more efficient than working out on the StairMaster, Zinczenko said.
But that raises the question: How do you flatten the abs? The average man's waist is nearly 39 inches around. The average woman's, nearly 34.
"You're going to end up losing weight everywhere from your entire body," he said. "It just so happens that most people carry weight on their stomachs. Strengthening your core isn't a vanity thing. It reduces aches and pains in the rest of the body so you can work out more efficiently."
Zinczenko said there were some simple, often neglected exercises that strengthened the abs.
"The plank or the bridge, as it's also called, is better than sit-ups," he said. "It works your abs and back. Get down on the ground like in a push-up position, but on your elbows. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds."
Zinczenko also recommended squats, which work more than 250 muscles.
Interval training will burn more calories than 30 minutes of steady cardio.
"Interval training works both the aerobic and anaerobic systems of the body," Zinczenko said. "This means that you will continue to burn calories at a higher rate after you have finished exercising."
It you make the time, Zinczenko said, you should see results in six weeks to nine weeks.
"Guys usually have to get to about 12 percent body fat to see their abs," he said. "Women can see them between 14 [percent] and 18 percent body fat."
In addition to exercise, Zinczenko said the key to toned abs was diet. "Abs are made in the kitchen."
Most importantly, both men and women say sexy abs are their No. 1 turn-on. And men who work out three times a week have 30 percent more sex. In general, exercise makes sex better, Zinczenko said.
"So if nothing else, that should get people inspired," he said.