Without a doubt, well-defined abdominal muscles are the Holy Grail of a lean, athletic, sculpted body.
In an age in which so many of us are out of shape and over-tired, abs have become the ultimate symbol of virility and vitality.
They're also considered seriously sexy. So much so that plenty of men and women alike can't help but stare with either fascination or lust -- sometimes both -- when they see someone showing off a serrated centre.
Alluring though a tight midsection may be, it isn't necessarily just for show. It has health-promoting benefits, too.
Amazingly, it can actually help fend off some serious degenerative diseases and other debilitating conditions. This is because potentially dangerous toxins tend to accumulate wherever fat is most concentrated. And this is usually around our middle, particularly for men.
This health risk has even been demonstrated by a world-renowned American health-care provider, the Mayo Clinic. Its findings show that overweight men whose waist sizes are larger than 40 inches (102 centimetres) are at a greater risk for all of the following ailments: heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, some types of cancer and diabetes.
Among the various other issues that excess belly fat can cause is low testosterone, which effects nearly a third of all men over the age of 55.
Yet the mere act of slimming down can significantly reverse this unhealthy condition, studies have found.
Furthermore, even if you're in good health and watch what you eat, your stomach muscles will ordinarily begin to weaken as you age.
This can lead to an all-too-common condition among men over the age of 30, which is called abdominal ptosis. This is merely a medical term for a sagging belly. And though this typically leads to bad posture, most of us don't find it to be much of a concern.
However, as abdominal ptosis worsens over time, it tends to weaken and over-stress lower back muscles. In turn, this compromises their ability to keep your spine stable, as well as their equally important role in reinforcing your body's core strength.
All in all, such a physical imbalance can lead to a chronically sore lower back and the threat of easily incurring a more serious back injury.
So if you want to preserve a taut stomach and an erect posture as you age, don't forget to incorporate crunches and/or similar exercises into your fitness regime.
Don't Ignore Your Core
In recent years, the fitness community has added an important new dimension to working out our torsos -- core training.
This involves exercises that concentrate on the often-neglected muscles that form a supportive corset around our spines. Known as stabilizer muscles, they include your multifidis (lower back muscles), as well as internal obliques and transverse abdominals (muscles that run up your sides).
Though they're usually overlooked, these muscles perform a wide range of necessary functions. They include supporting your spine and providing you with erect posture -- which helps you look slim.
They also aid you with bending, twisting and reaching. And with regards to weight-resistance training, they play another valuable role: They reinforce your midsection, thereby increasing your overall physical power and minimizing your risk of injury.
To train stabilizer muscles, you need to do simple isometric (static) exercises, such as the prone plank and the side plank (see YouTube for examples of how to do these the right way).
Finally, if you're dating, there's no harm in developing chiseled abs just to improve your love life. After all, under the sheets in the bedroom, you can rest assured that a sexy six pack will make a lasting impression.
Whatever your fitness goals may be, rest assured that strong abs will bestow upon you all of the following: good posture, a strong core, a healthy testosterone level, a minimized risk of developing degenerative diseases, fewer toxins stored in your body fat... and let's not forget plenty of sex appeal.
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