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General Medical Questions
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Question : What exercises can be done after back surgery to reduce belly fat?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Howard LeWine, M.D., is chief editor of Internet Publishing, Harvard Health Publications. He is a clinical instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. LeWine has been a primary care internist and teacher of internal medicine since 1978.

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November 01, 2013
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Before starting any exercise program, check with the doctor that did your surgery about any limitations he or she recommends.

I suspect you want to decrease your waist size AND improve the tone of your abdominal and back muscles.

To decrease your waist size, you need to reduce calories and increase the time you spend exercising. You want to do moderate intensity aerobic exercise for at least 45 minutes most days of the week.

Moderate intensity aerobic exercise could mean:

  • Walking at a pace of 100 steps per minute or faster, and/or
  • Doing other aerobic exercise to achieve and maintain a heart rate that is 50% to 70% of your maximum heart rate. (Maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age in years). Try to hit the 70% mark.

Here are some exercises to help you improve the tone of your abdominal and back muscles:

Modified sit-up. Lie flat on your back; bend your knees so that the soles of your feet rest comfortably on the floor close to your buttocks. Place your fingertips just behind your ears. Take a slow deep breath through your nose and out through your mouth. Repeat this a few times to get a rhythm. Inhale to prepare and exhale as you slowly bring your shoulders up off the floor. Do not lead with your head as this creates strain in the neck rather than tightening the abs. You only need to raise your shoulders about 6 inches off the floor to engage the upper rectus. Continue to slowly breathe out, holding the position for one to two seconds, and then inhale as you come back down. The key is slow and controlled. Repeat the movement six to 12 times. And then do another set. As you get stronger, gradually increase your number of repetitions.

Lower abdominal crunch. Lie flat on your back with your hands behind your head or your arms at your side, whichever is more comfortable. Lift your legs and bend your knees so that you have a 90-degree angle between your lower abdomen and upper thigh and a 90-degree angle at your knees. Keep your knees together and continue to look straight up at the ceiling. Inhale as you pull your knees in toward your chest while pressing your low back flat against the floor. Hold the inhale for a full second and then exhale as your let your legs slowly move back to the starting position. Do not rock. Do the same number of repetitions and sets as with modified sit-ups. Go slow and stay in control.

Crossovers. Lie flat on your back with your hands behind your ears. Lift your legs and bend your knees so that you have a 90-degree angle between your lower abdomen and upper thigh and a 90-degree angle at your knees. Inhale to prepare. Raise your shoulders a couple of inches as you start to exhale. While keeping your elbows back, reach your right shoulder toward your left knee as you feel the right side of your abdomen contract. Remember to push your low back down towards the floor as you come up. Hold for one to two seconds at your top. Then inhale as you slowly reverse the movement back to the floor. Inhale to prepare. Now do the same type of motion with the left shoulder going to the right knee. Continue to alternate side-to-side for six to 12 reps. Take a short rest and do another set. (If you get too tired holding your legs up, keep your feet flat on the floor instead.)

Plank (optional).This is an isometric exercise commonly practiced in yoga. As the name of the position implies, you will make your body as straight as a board. This exercise works all the trunk muscles as well as the shoulders and upper legs. Use a mat for this one and a mirror if available. Get down on your hands and knees. Rest your forearms flat on the mat, shoulder-width apart. Then straighten your legs as you go up on your toes. Keep your feet apart similar to your arms. Don't forget to breathe — in through the nose and out through your mouth. Slow and controlled. Push your elbows into the mat and lift your navel up towards your spine. Engage your abdominals and thigh muscles to keep yourself straight. The tendency is to keep your buttocks toward the air. Bring it down as you stretch through your legs, pushing your heels away from your head. Check your position in the mirror or ask someone to help make sure that you are flat. Hold this for 10 to 15 seconds if you can. Take a rest and repeat again. As you get stronger, you will be able to hold it longer.

None of these exercises should cause pain in the low back. If you do experience pain, stop the exercise and check your body positioning. Don't persist if the pain happens when you try again.

 

 

 

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