Can diet tea and an ab apparatus whittle a huge middle? Are there good exercises especially for smokers? Can you lose belly fat by changing your breathing patterns? And what exercises can straighten a curvy penis? Smart Fitness answers your wackiest workout queries yet.
Have an exercise question? To e-mail us, click here. We’ll post select answers in future columns.
Q: I am drinking diet tea and using the Ab Lounge. Is that a good combo, because my stomach is huge from having children?
A: Sitting in your Ab Lounge, sipping diet tea and hoping your "huge" stomach will disappear. You don't see anything wrong with this picture?
There are various activities that can help you whittle your middle but none of them has anything to do with lounging.
Maybe the Ab Lounge can help you firm up your stomach muscles but it won't make a big dent in all that baby fat.
"You cannot spot reduce," explains Mike Bracko, an exercise physiologist in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and a spokesperson for the American College of Sports Medicine. "That is to say, you cannot reduce the fat on a specific part of the body by doing exercises for that body part."
So what works? Getting out of that lounger and getting moving with exercise that makes you sweat.
As for the diet tea, it's better for weight loss than sugary tea or soda, but it's not magic. You need to examine your entire diet and see where else you might cut excess calories.
Q: I love to work out, and in high school I played sports and stayed in shape. However, I am a smoker and I can't seem to work out as hard as I would like to. Are there any daily workouts that would give me weight-loss results even with my habit of smoking?
A: OK, so you want the "Smoker's Workout." Well, I checked around and I can't find one.
There's a reason you can't work out hard, and I guess I need to spell it out: C-I-G-A-R-E-T-T-E-S.
Ideally, you should stop smoking, not just so you can exercise harder but so you can reduce your risk of developing heart disease, lung cancer, emphysema, shoe-leather skin and a host of other problems.
But if you don't quit, research has shown that you're better off being a chain-smoking exerciser than a puffing couch potato.
So either way, keep moving. Which workouts will help you lose weight? The same ones that help non-smokers shed pounds.
Q: Above the waist, I'm OK … just can't take off the pouch below the waist. Someone said I may be breathing wrong. How do you breathe right?
A: In and out, like you have since birth. No instruction manual required.
“The fat distribution on the stomach has nothing to do with breathing,” says Bracko.
Maybe you have a genetic predisposition to having a spare tire or maybe you just eat too many Krispy Kremes. Whatever the reason, trying to change your natural breathing pattern, if that's even possible, won't blast off the belly fat.
Of course, heavy breathing might help — if it’s caused by running, aerobics class or some other form of cardiovascular activity that can help you burn calories and fat, including some of that pouch below your waist.
Q: I want to lose the belly fat, but if I lose weight does the size of my breast and butt go down? I really don't want to lose that. I only want lose the fat from my belly. What exercises do you recommend?
A: Sorry, we don't get to pick and choose where our fat takes up residence and we also can't target certain areas for weight loss, notes Wayne Westcott, fitness research director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, Mass., and a consultant to the American Council on Exercise.
So, yes, if you embark on weight-loss plan to help trim your waistline, you may wind up with a less buxom bosom and not-so-bootylicious backside.
Q: Can wearing tight support wear help tighten your mid-section?
A: If only it were that simple.
"The only way to tighten or increase the muscle tone of a body part is to perform some kind of strength-training exercise," says Bracko.
That means sit-ups, crunches, etc. And, again, to lose the fat, you need to sweat. No short-cuts here.
Q: How can I increase my hips? I want full big hips.
A: Well, I can honestly say that in the thousands of questions we've received at Smart Fitness over the years, this is the first time we've heard from anyone wanting bigger hips.
You could try to fatten them up but that'll likely mean you gain weight in other areas, too, such as your belly, thighs and arms. And you don't want to do that, do you?
Enjoy your svelte shape. Women everywhere work hard to achieve what seems to come naturally for you.
Q: How do I straighten my penis with the help of exercise?
A: You're barking up the wrong tree here. Jogging, doing Pilates, not even competing in the Ironman is going to straighten your penis.
Maybe it's naturally curved a bit or, at the worst, you could have a rare condition known as Peyronie's disease. Either way, this is an issue for a urologist.
Smart Fitness appears every other Tuesday.