Whether you are flipping through a magazine or the channels on TV, it seems that everywhere you look people are flaunting their six pack abs. So while it is rather natural for you too to want a defined midriff that is worth showing off, are they really worth the trouble?

According to experts, six pack abs are overrated and there are healthier ways to get a well defined, muscular body. Not only are they unnatural and unrealistic, they can also be unhealthy. Confused as to how toning up could be bad? This is because to get those abs of steel, you need to maintain a strenuous workout that focuses largely on your belly muscles, while other muscle groups could be ignored in the process. It take a lot of hard work to get the desired results – a superhuman ab workout routine and a stringent “six pack” diet, which together can leave your body over-stressed while also negatively impacting your social life.

Just Not Worth It

What most people do not realize is that getting six pack abs requires an unnaturally low body-fat percentage, which is what makes those ripped muscles show. To achieve such a low body fat percentage, one needs to follow a very strict diet and workout routine. That means hours on end spent at the gym, along with a virtually non-existent social life – because eating or drinking out is a strict no-no. But that’s not the worst thing; in reality, a healthy body fat percentage is vital for good health. Fat in the body is responsible for many important functions like temperature regulation, cushioning vital organs, maintaining hormone levels and the production of enzymes. Without adequate fat levels in the body, you could be asking for more trouble.

Things get worse for women, as they tend to naturally have a higher body fat percentage than men. “Women's bodies are designed to bear and nourish babies, and fat is the primary energy source to support fetal development. Very low body fat content is particularly unhealthy for women, which is why most doctors discourage crash diets as well. And to lower down body fat enough to have a six-pack, might even interrupt their menstrual cycle”, says Dr. Cotton, a gynecologist who doesn't encourage such extreme goals. “It is best to just aim for good health. Rather than wasting time on six pack abs which is nothing more than a show muscle, put in the time and effort into practicing a balanced workout that engages all muscle groups”, he further adds.

The Ugly Truth About Six Pack Abs

To attain six pack abs, one needs to have less than 10% body fat. However, for a healthy body, doctors recommend no lesser than 10-15% body fat for men and 16-20% body fat for women. Lower fat levels in the body can have adverse effects on your body including:

  • Reduced bladder control
  • Irregular bowel function
  • Hormone imbalance
  • Weaker immune system
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Inadequate cushioning around joints and organs, which increases the risk of injury
  • Increased fatigue, tiredness and mood swings

It is extremely important to remember that over-doing your workout routine or religiously following the six pack diet because this can result in cramps, muscle sprain and strain, and bursitis – muscle injuries that could be dangerous.

There is more than one reason why our society’s obsession with abs made of steel must come to an end because the rippled ‘six pack’ look may require you to sacrifice more than you bargained for. We're beginning to see hunchback conditions because of excessive abdominal crunches. While six pack abs might look great, that look might cost you flexibility and freedom of movement. Fact is that overdoing ab exercises can lead to a flattening of the lumbar curve, creating a weakened spinal structure”, states Michael Yessis, Ph.D., who is a biomechanics and kinesiology specialist and also the author of Kinesiology of Exercise.

The Takeaway

In all earnestness, no matter how great six pack abs may look on the models you see on the billboards, they just aren’t worth it, and you can never be sure that they’re not airbrushed anyway. It’s best to aim for a flat stomach from healthy living rather than going to extremes that do your body much more harm than good.

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