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Healthwise Special              Archive

Flattening the tum an impossible aim?


This was one of the grouses (mine actually) about getting older, featured in a recent Talkback.

Is it an impossible aim?

After thought and consideration (some, I'm not obsessive about this) I can conclude that a) losing weight helps b) exercise on a regular basis helps c) but not all that much (unless you really are obsessive about it).

The best exercise for flatter tums is, without doubt, Pilates. Teachers of this method tend to have very developed diaphragms which shows something's got to give, but they also have very very flat abdomens.


Here are a few basic exercises using the Pilates method, which is, by the way, safe and fairly gentle, good for strengthening the back and acceptable for most people even those with arthritis, though you should check with your doctor or physiotherapist first.
  1. Lie flat on the floor with knees bent so soles of feet are in contact with the floor. Arms can be flat at sides, palms facing up.
  2. You have to get your back into a neutral position, so it doesn't curve up a lot, nor is the small of the back pressing down into the floor. Practice this pose and experiment a bit till you feel comfortable and relaxed.
  3. Everything you do from now on involves having your back in your neutral position.
  4. Now start breathing in the Pilates way. Take a deep breath in and pull in your abdomen at the same time. Hold the position, check that your back is relaxed and then breathe out, keeping the abdomen in. Blow through the mouth to make sure you do it properly.
  5. You may not find this easy at first. The abdomen won't stay flat and your back tenses up and you muddle up your breathing. So practice over a few days several times.
  6. Add variations: tiny pelvic tilts, nothing heroic, done while you have your hands supporting back of neck so you can bring your head and shoulders slightly off the floor. Keep neck long, look at ceiling, contract abdomen as you lift head, don't hold, and always keep breathing like this: abdomen contracted, lift head and tilt pelvis on outgoing breath, and breath in as you lie down.

7. Repeat 6-12 times. Leave out the head and shoulder tilt at first if it seems too much.

Pilates continues with variations on this theme. If you want to do more, it pays to join a regular class. You can contact the Pilates Foundation on:
Or write to their UK address at 80 Camden Road, London E17 7NF

If in any doubt about any of the information covered in healthwise articles and it's relevance for you, consult your GP.

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