Take action to improve fitness but play it safe

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Nikki Caputa is a health and fitness coach who works one-to-one with clients and runs her own fitness camps in Fareham where she trains groups.

Nikki is also an ambassador for Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and a UK Hypo-presive Method Trainer.

She helps people master a fitness technique that targets the core.

Visit fab-body-fitness.co.uk. Follow Nikki on Twitter @nikkifit mum1

Can more than 1.3 million people really be wrong?

So who’s signed up for the 30-day Ab Challenge that’s doing the rounds on Facebook and the internet? How is that working for you?

More importantly, when committing to doing 30 days of traditional abdominal exercises, what were your goals?

What were you expecting to achieve?

On the plus side, that’s 1.3 million people who would like to do something about their bodies and are actively looking for guidance and help.

It’s over a million people who have been galvanised into physical action by, mostly, social media.

That’s another powerful message about how effective social media can be in getting people active.

As a trainer, that’s music to my ears.

But what is it that these 1.3 million people are signing up to do?

Well they’ve said they intend to do a series of traditional abdominal exercises for 30 days (except that you have seven rest days in the 30-day programme).

Among those exercises are sit-ups, crunches, leg raises and planks.

I’m betting most of you will be familiar with those exercises as they have been pretty much the mainstay of most abdominal programmes for a very long time.

The problem is that training has moved on and 1.3 million really need to know about that.

In my opinion there are two problems with this particular programme.

The first problem is, to coin a phrase, that abs are made in the kitchen; it’s the quality and quantity of the food that you eat that will largely determine what you look like around your middle.

The right exercise will also have a positive effect, as will enough quality sleep.

But I want to concentrate on the reasons I, as a physical therapist, wouldn’t do this exercise.

Aside from the fact that many people have well-developed abdominals already 
and just can’t see them bec-ause of the layer of subcutaneous fat that’s hiding them, there are other reasons why this 30-day plan is not for me.

Generally we just sit down too much these days. Couple that with lack of activity generally and you have a nice little recipe for poor posture and physical dysfunction.

The result of that is often a very unhappy and painful back.

When you add in exercises with large compressive forces and you keep on repeating them, repetition by repetition, for days on end...something may give.

And that could well be your back.

While many athletes are able to perform large amounts of exercise that requires spinal flexion over their lifetime, it could be that spinal discs can remodel and become stronger over time to resist damage incurred from spinal flexion exercise.

But among the over 1.3 million who started on June 1, I wonder how many really are well-trained athletes?

I suspect it’s very few.

In fact I’m willing to bet that the vast majority haven’t done any exercise for a little while.

So 23 days of lots of spinal flexion during a 30-day period isn’t the wisest exercise choice.

Nothing wrong with spinal flexion per se, just not this much on potentially untrained bodies over a relatively short period of time when there’s nobody to monitor your technique.

There’s nothing worse than someone who criticises a training method without offering an effective alternative. So here are two:

n Try gradually increasing your general activity levels over the next month. The simple act of walking is ideal.

n As an Expert Level Hypopressives Instructor, I find that abdominal and core training is effective in reducing waist size and increasing core strength and abdominal tone.