Which abs exercises will support my back?

Jane mugshot for JQAWhat stom­ach exer­cises can I do to help strengthen the spine and assist pel­vic sta­bil­ity? I have just been dia­gnosed with osteo­porosis and osteoarth­ritis of the spine even though I do reg­u­lar weight-​bearing exer­cises, yoga, walk and cycle.

Osteoporosis (thin­ning bones) and osteoarth­ritis (pain­ful joints) are both com­mon dis­eases of age­ing, and osteo­porosis is often “inher­ited”. So it’s not always pos­sible, des­pite your best efforts, to keep these prob­lems at bay. However, you can slow down the deteri­or­a­tion and reduce pain by keep­ing your­self in good shape, and above all, stay­ing strong.

As you have real­ised, it is import­ant to tar­get the vul­ner­able areas; in your case, your spine. You will need to keep it supple (the yoga may help) and strong, so that your muscles rather than your skel­eton, take the strain, and you can build some mus­cu­lar “cush­ion­ing” for hips and pel­vis. Strong lower stom­ach muscles will also help pro­tect and sup­port your back.

The fol­low­ing four exer­cises are all excel­lent.

1. Pulling in the lower stom­ach. If you slump for­ward on a chair with your elbows rest­ing on your knees and then give a little cough, you should feel your tummy muscle (below the tummy but­ton) con­tract. This is the muscle you need to learn to pull in gently and hold, while you carry on breath­ing as nor­mal. Each time you pull in and hold (start­ing with 10 seconds, work­ing up to 30 seconds), you are help­ing to strengthen your lower stom­ach and sup­port your back. Click here for the full exer­icse

2. Back raises: lie face down, arms by your sides with palms on the floor. Pull in your lower stom­ach and lift your chest up, extend­ing for­wards as you rise – ima­gine super­man fly­ing through the sky. Keep look­ing down so you don’t bend your neck back. Hold the back raise for 5 seconds, then gently come down. Repeat up to 10 times. This is an excel­lent daily back strengthener. Click here for the full exer­icse

3. Lying leg lifts: Lie face down, head rest­ing on your fore­arms. Pull in your lower tummy, tighten your bot­tom muscles and raise one leg just a little, lift­ing from your hip so there is no bend in your knee. Make sure your hips don’t tip over to the other side as you lift the leg (it’s quite hard). Hold for 5, then lower. Repeat 10 times with each leg. Click here for the full exer­cise

4. Standing side leg lifts: stand tall with your fin­ger­tips rest­ing on a win­dow sill or kit­chen chair-​back. Pull your lower tummy in, slide one leg out side­ways, keep­ing your toes and foot facing for­wards. Then lift that leg just off the floor without tilt­ing at all, hold for 5, and replace it. Repeat 10 times on each side. You should feel this one in your hip and but­tock muscles, as it’s a good hip strengthener. Click here for the full exer­cise

Once you’ve learnt how to hold that lower stom­ach muscle in gently, all of these exer­cises will help to strengthen it – as well as the other struc­tures that sup­port your spine.

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