Our coronavirus coverage is free for the first 24 hours. Find the latest information at Please consider subscribing or donating.

  1. Health

Crunches won't get rid of belly fat but will strengthen abs

Sorry, but crunches alone will not reduce abdominal fat — not even if you do lots and lots of them. That is simply a diet myth that has been floating around for years. Spot reduction just doesn't cut it.

To attack body fat, you need to target many muscles working together, rather than targeting a specific muscle or muscle group as the typical crunch does. Aerobic exercise and strength training, in which you work the whole body, and changing your eating habits will indeed trim body fat but you cannot predict where fat loss will occur; genetics will do that for you.

And, even though you can forget those ab exercises to remove flab, the exercises are still very important to strengthen them. Try moving beyond crunches on the floor and do some standing ab exercises that offer more functional movement ... the way you move in reality.

Importance of strong abdominals

POSTURE: Along with other core muscles (backs, hips, chest), the abs act as stabilizers for the torso to maintain correct posture, reducing strain on the spine.

BALANCE: When your body is stabilized with strong abs, you reduce the risk of falling and are better able to stand in one place without losing your balance.

BACK PAIN: Strong abs develop stronger back muscles and together they help prevent chronic lower back pain.

FIX-IT JOBS: Lifting, bending, reaching and twisting become painful if ab muscles are not strong; every movement we make involves abs and backs.

SPORTS: Most athletic activities involve movement originating from the core. Well-conditioned abs help to increase endurance, which will improve performance.

Check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program. Trainer Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers but cannot respond to individual inquiries. She can be reached at