As you lie on the ground with your hands behindyour head and your knees bent, you lift your upperbody towards your knees.
That’s how you do a traditional sit-up, an exercise many of us have been doing sinceelementary school. However, the benefits of this abdominal workout are now in doubt.
Earlier last month, an editorial from the Navy Times, a US military publication, said that thesit-up is “viewed as a key cause of lower back injuries”. A study conducted by the US NationalCenter for Biotechnology Information confirmed that 56 percent of the injuries in the USarmy’s fitness test result from sit-ups. The Canadian Armed Forces banished the sit-up fromits fitness test for the same reason.
“Sit-ups can put hundreds of pounds of compressive force on the spine,” Stuart McGill, a spinebiomechanics specialist at the University of Waterloo, Canada, told The Wall Street Journal. “[It]can squeeze the discs in the spine, [and] eventually can cause discs to bulge, pressing onnerves and causing back pain, potentially leading to disc herniation.”
In addition to its health disadvantages, the sit-up is also seen as lacking efficiency. A newreport from Harvard Medical School disclosed that traditional sit-ups only target certainmuscle groups instead of strengthening the entire set of core muscles.
As a result, many fitness gurus are abandoning sit-ups. “I really believe that the traditional,antiquated crunch has seen better days, and it’s time to make a change,” said Tony Horton,the creator of the popular P90X workout series. Horton revealed that he no longer does sit-ups.
For fitness lovers who used to do traditional sit-ups, Dr McGill recommends a modified curl-up that puts less stress on spines than traditional sit-ups. It requires adopters place handsunderneath the back and then only lift head and shoulders.
Sit-ups can also be practiced in different ways, and the variations range from V-Ups, Swiss ballsit-ups and reverse sit-ups. The injury risk not only depends on the variations that peopleuse, but also on an individual’s physical well-being.
John Childs is the CEO of Evidence in Motion, a US company that trains physical therapists, andhe remains skeptical about the latest study against sit-ups. He acknowledges that sit-ups canincrease the stress placed on backs, but he doesn’t see a direct link between sit-ups and backpain.
“The most important thing is for people to perform exercises they enjoy so they’ll continuedoing them,” Childs told The Wall Street Journal. “Staying active and doing regular exercise theold-fashioned way is far more advantageous than doing nothing.”