The lowdown on sit-ups and what exercise should seniors do to increase muscle tone?
On February 17, Garth asked you if sit-ups would help to get rid of the excess flab on his stomach and your answer was basically “no”. But I can vouch for situps as a way to get rid of a flabby tummy. So why was your answer “no”? Helga, via email You are lucky to have had such great results, but I stand by my comments. Sit-ups and crunch movements work the rectus abdominis muscle (commonly called the six-pack). This muscle’s sole job is to flex the spine. It has no effect on drawing the abdominals in and little effect on fat burning. To burn fat you need to be doing whole-body strength training and high-intensity cardio intervals. To affect the overall shape of your abdominal area, you need to be working on the deeper core muscles, in particular the transverse abdominis. This is done initially by Pilates-type exercises that brace and strengthen these deep postural muscles.
SETTING THE TONE
I’m 80 and play social tennis a few times a week, row on a machine and use a spa for arthritis. I want to improve my muscle tone. What will give me an overall muscle workout? Should I use a ball or go swimming? Jane, via email Swimming may be a little too close to rowing and Swiss balls are great, but their effectiveness will depend on your strength and coordination. What you are missing is some weight training. This will strengthen your bones and give you muscle tone. An exercise routine focused on dumbbells would work well. Another good option would be some sling training. The TRX or similar brands allow you to do a range of bodyweight strengthening at an intensity that suits you. They are versatile and lightweight so you can use them anywhere.
Damien Kelly is a qualified exercise physiologist. Please email your health and fitness questions to [email protected]sona.com. au. Due to the large volume of questions Damien cannot respond personally to each question.