Most people would love to have a flat, firm tummy – but many of us never quite get there. Aside from looking great in a swimsuit, reducing abdominal flab is one of the most important things we can do for our health. Since belly fat is linked to a variety of problems, from increased incidence of heart disease to a higher chance of developing diabetes, trimming your midsection is one of the best things you can do for your health.

But what do you do, when crunches just aren’t cutting it? Remember there’s more to reducing abdominal fat than performing a million sit-ups.

First of all, developing a healthy waistline begins in the kitchen. Exercise is important, but you have to burn more calories than you consume in order to remove body fat. So, the first step is to follow your doctor’s or nutritionist’s advice. Eat a balanced diet low in saturated fats and carbohydrates, and you will be well on your way to a trimmer waistline.

Next, move beyond mere crunches and incorporate these moves into your exercise routine.

High-intensity interval training. Many fitness experts believe that this type of interval training burns more belly fat than typical steady-rate cardio exercise.

Side planks. Too many sit-up and crunches can leave your back sore, and they only work the center of your abdominal muscles. Side planks help to tone your waistline from the side, and strengthen your back as well.

Work on your posture.  Regardless of your age or physical condition, this is one everyone can do.  It may not reduce the actual fat in your belly, but it will help you earn a trimmer look overall and improve the health of your spine.  It also reduces your chances of injury and back pain.  Remember to train your back muscles, and use correct form and posture during all types of exercise. Even when you’re not exercising, spot check your posture. Are your shoulders back, your spine straight, and your belly tucked in as you sit and walk? Just moving about in the correct way, on a daily basis, will strengthen your core.

As always, check with your doctor before drastically altering your exercise regimen, or beginning a new one. You want to rule out underlying health conditions, and make sure the exercise plan you have chosen is a safe one for you.