What 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.