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Healthy Aging Tips from Sit and Be Fit's Mary Ann Wilson RN

By Mary Ann Wilson, RN

If I were to tell you there was a more efficient way to work the abdominal muscles than sit ups and crunches, would you be surprised? Researcher, Dr. Stuart McGill believes that crunches, the typically prescribed exercise for strengthening the abdominal muscles, is actually harmful to the spine. If you are comfortable getting down on the floor you can click here to learn 4 alternative core exercises recommended by McGill.

For those who aren’t comfortable getting on the floor to work the abdominal muscles with exercises such as side planks, never fear! It’s possible to use vertical exercises to train for spinal stability and strengthen the core. Since the abdominal muscles are designed to function in an upright manner, with all of our muscles working together to perform a specific task, this approach makes sense.

The core includes the lumbar spine, abdominal muscles, back extensors, quadratus lumborum and latissimus dorsi, which pass through the core and link to the pelvis, the legs, shoulders and arms. The function of the abdominal muscles is to transfer forces from the ground up to the legs, trunk and through the upper extremities. The abdominal muscles also provide much needed stability to the spine.

The muscles that make up the abdominals are layered against one another. For that reason, they contract as a unit when doing an upright movement. They control the muscles of the spine, rib cage, and pelvis. When we move in an upright position, such as walking or running, we engage the nervous system, which in turn regulates the forces of the muscles, fascia and connective tissue.

Let’s take a look at one great exercise you can practice regularly to help create spinal stability and strengthen the core.

Sit and Be FIt TV host, Mary Ann Wilson, demonstrating a seated exercise for the core.
Seated wood chop exercise step #1
Sit and Be FIt TV host, Mary Ann Wilson, demonstrating a seated exercise for the core.
Seated wood chop exercise step #2

Wood Chop Exercise

Start from a seated position. Using a 8-10 inch ball, move it from one shoulder down toward the opposite hip and beyond. Repeat 8 times and change sides.

Next, try this exercise from a standing position (but only if you have good enough balance to stand unsupported). Step forward with the left leg. Plant both feet firmly on the floor. Move the ball from your right shoulder down toward the left hip. Allow the right heel to lift during the movement. Repeat 8 times and change sides. By following the ball with the eyes you also work the vestibular system which helps challenge and improve balance.

Related Blogs:

Abdominal Exercises with the Resistance Band

Abdominal Exercises on the Floor

Abdominal Exercises In A Chair

Posture Exercises

Recommended DVDs:

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    1. Yes, thank you for the great idea, Monica! We will incorporate it into our planning for the next Sit and Be Fit series. Some time ago Mary Ann did dedicate a short segment to fighting flabby arms. We will look back into our archives and put the clip up on on YouTube for you! Stay tuned:)

  1. I used to watch this show all the time! I’m so glad I found this article. I think there are going to be some very helpful exercises that I can use. Thank you.

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