Sit ups are crucial for life and especially for caregivers and rehabilitating patients...
Done almost every day in one fashion or another our entire lives. We use our abdominal muscles to get out of bed, to walk, get in and out of our cars and even sneeze, stand and walk! If they are weak, we hang on our ligaments - pull your index finger backwards with your other index finger... hold it there... you are now hanging on ligaments! And we wonder why our backs hurt!
Our backs depend on a strong frontside (abdominals) to protect it. Too, often however, the stresses and entitlements of our western culture push our health off of daily to do lists. We convince ourselves that we are invincible. The days turn into to years and tiny choices and neglect turn into pain and debility.
Would you drive a car without a front windshield? Perhaps but not likely. Why? That thin piece of glass protects what is on the other side of it... you!
Our abdominal muscles work in much the same way... they protect what's on the other side... you! Specifically, your spine.
So, what happens when we can't do a sit up anymore? You guessed it. We lay in bed, we can't get out of the recliner. We suffer low back pain. We fall apart. But we keep going, literally adding insult to injury...
Many American's have included abdominal work at some time in their workout routines but over time and as we age, sit ups make their way out of our lives and settle into the younger generation. They gain we lose. Not weight.
Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, Fitness 34(5):740-44, May, 2002 reported that persons with low abdominal fitness and low grip strength had significantly higher mortality (death)rates. Strength training improves survival!
Depending on your ability this essential core exercise may be do-able or seem impossible. Let's make them do-able!The basics:
Most picture this exercise laying on the floor with your toes tucked under the couch and curling up into a sitting position.
Patients probably can't start there! Like all exercises, they can be modified to meet your abdominal muscle ability.
The recliner can be a great place to start (especially if you spend most of your time there!). Tip your chair to a level that makes this do-able. Put your hands on your thighs and slide your hands towards your knees as you come up into a sitting position. Just raising your head is progress!
No recliner or still to difficult? Sit on your couch, lean back, now slide your hands along your thighs to your knees and come forward. Repeat as many as you can do in 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds, repeat this for up to 8 cycles or 4 minutes as you would in interval training.
If couch sit ups are unrealistic for you, have some one help you but allowing you to pull on them. Hand to hand, pull with your arms (an additional arm and back workout!) to complete the exercise. Trust me, your abdominal muscle will engage. Work on this until you can graduate to the couch.
When couch sit ups become easier, slide your bottom out a bit so that your backwards lean increases. You may want to put a pillow in the hollow of your low back for support.
From here, move to the floor and prop the needed number of pillows behind your upper back and head for the angle that is do-able for you.
Ever tried the penguin version? Do your modified or otherwise sit up half way, hold it there and reach right hand down the side of your right leg then left hand down the side of your left leg and go back and forth.
How about reverse sit ups? Lay on the floor or on your bed. Grab your headboard or underneath your couch (head towards the couch). Now, slide both of your heels up towards your chest. Lift your legs off the floor if you can. Holding the headboard or the couch will give you leverage.
Now, again, apply the 20 second on, 10 second off principle until over time you can actually lift your feet off the floor and your knees up towards the ceiling.
Always use slow and controlled movements. Momentum will make you feel accomplished but with little physiological benefits. With both forms, roll one way or the other so that each point of your back is in contact with the floor. Like a "C" rocking on the floor.
If you don't have 4 minutes, no worries... anything is better than nothing. Tighten your abdominal muscles often throughout the day. This helps them become stronger and helps you become aware of them again! I often "punch" my lower abdominals (below my belly button) and feel them tighten up so I know what part of my abdominals I am focusing on. Again, anything is better than nothing! Start now... give your lower abs a gentle punch, feel them engage and work your way to a strong body guard for your spine!