If you have ever tried to get rid of belly fat, the exercise routine that is most likely to come up in conversations as a likely recourse to help you do just that, are sit-ups. Sit-ups are generally considered the go-to exercise for stomach tautness or building core body strength. Researchers are however pulling away at the thread of that belief as they continue to consider whether sit-ups are actually doing these things or if they are bad for us.
This entire article is not bad news for people desirous of flat abdomens as that could still be achieved with a good diet and other general exercise routines. On to the research in question, a review of data collected over time supports the fact that sit-ups improve flexibility and muscle strength, so if those two are the reasons you do sit-ups, you could in a sense continue.
A small randomized controlled trial in Illinois in 2011 however moves us on to some of the bad news. One group involved in the randomized trial did daily abdominal exercises, while another group (the control group) did none. Six weeks later, detailed measurements were taken and it was found that the sit-ups made no difference to waist size or the amount of fat around their stomachs. Arguments still rage on this note however.
To the second part of the argument as to whether it could indeed be bad, a professor of spine bio-metrics at the University of Waterloo, Canada, Stuart McGill who has been studying sit-ups for years is convinced that it is. He conducted dozens of studies in his spine bio-mechanics lab making use of the cadaver of pigs, repeatedly flexing their spines as we do when doing a sit-up.
He used pigs because their spines are more like human spines than a lot of other animals. What he found upon examination of the discs in the spine, was that they had been squeezed to a point where they bulged. Should that occur in humans, the bulge would press on the nerves, causing back pain.
Critics of that conclusion state that although similar, there are still differences between the spine of a pig and that of humans. They also rightfully state that very few people do sit-ups for hours on end.
In conclusion, lots of sit-ups alone will not tone down a flabby belly and may eventually result in back pain. You need to combine any exercise with an overall weight-loss programme by eating a balanced diet and taking regular varied exercise. Sit-ups target the most superficial ‘six-pack’ core muscles, and too many of these will actually cause the tummy to bulge out, leading to a pot belly.
A preferable way of attacking your dilemma is; performing a dynamic movement such as a walking lunge while rotating the top half of your body at the same time, you target all the abdominal muscles as well as other large muscle groups that burn more calories and body fat – it is these kinds of moves that will help give you the tummy of your dreams.
Many dancers and gymnasts have fantastic flat midriffs due to the varied movements that they perform, rather than as a result of sit-ups.