Spry: You’ve created 95 workout videos and DVDs. Why did you decide to make Denise Austin: Shrink Belly Fat your next video series?
Denise Austin: Wherever I go, the number-one question I get is about the tummy. So many people with big bellies have heart disease and other issues, so I really want to teach people. The name of the DVD tells you what you need to do: Shrink Belly Fat. It’s the key, especially as we age. The fat closest to your heart is the worst fat. That’s why it’s so important to do cardio and burn off that fat. There are three different Shrink Belly Fat DVDs. They’re all great, 15-minute ab workouts, but one of them, Cardio Abs, focuses more on fat burning. During this workout, I’m standing up the entire time so there’s more fat burning going on. You really start to sweat and work the abs all at the same time. It really zeros in right where you need it, plus you’re getting a real cardio workout.
Spry: Almost everyone wants a flat belly, but most experts say you can’t spot reduce the abs. What’s your take on that?
DA: You can train and strengthen a certain area but you can’t say, ‘OK, I’m going to get rid of fat only here.’ We have to do cardio to burn fat and it burns fat for the whole body.
But the key thing about working your belly fat is you also need to zero in. It’s a three-pronged approach. You’ve got to eat right and watch your calorie intake. You’ve got to exercise, cardio-wise. And then you’ve got to zero in because you can spot train. That’s why people do bicep curls and that’s why they do abs. I’ve seen a huge difference in women losing inches from their belts doing these exercises! It does work. You just have to couple it with your cardio, whether that’s walking or whatever workout you like.
Spry: Would someone do all three of these 15-minute workouts (Cardio Abs, Athletic Abs, Classic Abs) or choose just one, depending on her needs?
DA: I would recommend doing a different one every day. You could do your favorite cardio workout, then come back and do Cardio Abs to really turn it into a core workout. Because you’re standing up and I’m doing almost kick boxing moves with a twist. So, that’s a great workout. If you did Cardio Abs, then Athletic Abs or Classic Abs right after that, you’d have a great 30-minute workout right there.
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Spry: There’s been so much talk over the last few years about how important it is to strengthen your core. Can you explain that?
DA: The core is the center of your entire body. So working your core, or your abs, helps your spine, which is your lifeline. When you walk, when you sit properly, when you do any movement, if the ab muscles are strong, in return it keeps your back and spine healthy, so you can move well. Everything, your arms, your legs, it all stems from the center. Also, and most people don’t realize this, but keeping your ab muscles strong helps keep all the organs in the right position in your tummy. Think good posture, where everything has perfect alignment and balance in your body.
Spry: Tell us about your new partnership with Lionsgate on the new BeFit channel on YouTube.
DA: I’m really excited because here’s a chance for people of all ages to go online and get a great workout for free. There are some fun segments that include eating healthy. Plus, I’m providing tips and people can ask fitness questions. I’ve done a whole series answering fans’ questions about exercising during pregnancy, or what’s the best arm exercise, etc. It’s a chance to go a little deeper than the DVDs. It’s overall a great place to be!
Spry: Most people find it very challenging to find time to exercise. Do you have any tips?
DA: Yes, there are little things you can do throughout the day that will get you in the right mood and frame of mind and point you in the right direction. Circulation is the key. Circulation gets you moving throughout the day. Doing something (walking up stairs, etc.) for five minutes here and five minutes there is so beneficial. If you accumulate three or four of these (five-minute sessions), there’s your 20-minute workout. It really does add up and that’s when you see the results. Also, at Christmastime next year, I’ll have a new DVD called Fit in a Flash, featuring a series of quick fitness tips to get in shape quickly wherever you are.
Spry: Your productivity and energy level is incredible. In fact, your latest book (2011’s Get Energy!) is all about energy. How do you keep up this pace?
DA: I walk the walk, ha! I truly live this lifestyle. I’m not just saying it. All these tips come from how I live my life. I walk as often as I can. I truly make it work. I’ve got healthy kids, thank God. I’ve got a great husband. There’s a lot to be thankful for.
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Spry: Your daughters are 19 and 22. How can parents encourage their kids to quit texting and get active?
DA: My girls are athletes. They’ve always been athletic and played sports. They both play lacrosse, which is a very committed sport. I always encourage parents to get their kids in some kind of after-school activities. It can be dance, jujutsu, karate or baseball. I’m a big believer in team sports for kids. It’s great for them physically and it helps their self-esteem.
Spry: We think of this generation being more sedentary than previous generations. On the other hand, girls have more opportunities to play sports today.
DA: Absolutely! Title IX really worked for our family. One of the first years it was kicking off, I was on a full athletic scholarship in gymnastics at the University of Arizona. This was a long time ago! My husband was on a tennis scholarship. So our daughters grew up knowing that playing sports and being part of a team is a great way to live your college life.
Spry: Besides walking the walk and living a healthy lifestyle, how do you de-stress?
DA: My biggest de-stressor is having people over and being with my sisters and my family as often as I can. That’s my biggest de-stressor! Just hanging out.
Spry: Is it true that Jack LaLanne was your role model?
DA: Yes, Jack LaLanne is absolutely my mentor. He became a close friend. Last year I was asked by his wife Elaine to speak at his funeral. I knew him 30 years. So he was my big-time hero and mentor. He was always positive, always preaching the same thing. He never changed. He preached not only healthy eating but moving every day and toning your muscles. He always talked about keeping your muscles strong. A few years ago, when I was on the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, I got the opportunity to give him a lifetime achievement award. That was really a highlight of my career.