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Question: I am a healthy woman in my early 60s. My doctor told me that I should not do sit-ups. Can you recommend abdominal exercises that do not involve any version of the sit-up?

Answer: Due to the prevalence of osteopenia (lower than normal bone density that may lead to osteoporosis) and osteoporosis in the older population, medical professionals often advise them against including flexion activities, such as sit-ups, within their exercise routine, but there are several exercises you can still do.

Dead bug: Lie on your back with your arms straight above your shoulders and your legs in the air, bent at a 90 degree angle. Make sure your back is neutral (your lower back should not be excessively arched or pressed into the ground. Instead allow for only a slight space so that your natural lordotic curve is maintained) and you have equal weight on both sides of your pelvis. Make a note of how this position feels. Your goal throughout the exercise is to not let the position of your back and pelvis change as you move your limbs.

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Inhale to prepare, and as you exhale extend your left arm and right leg away from each other. Inhale and hold the extended position for one beat, and then exhale to bring the arm and leg back to the starting position. Do six reps and then switch sides.

Side dead bug: Assume the above starting position. This time, instead of straightening the arm and leg, let the opposite arm and leg move sideways. Inhale to prepare, exhale as you move the arm and leg out to the side. Inhale with the limbs held out at the side, and then exhale to bring the leg and arm back to the starting position. Do 10 reps and then switch sides.

Pay attention to your pelvis. As your leg falls to the side, keep the opposite side of the pelvis on the ground.

Trainer's Tip: Be careful - often one does sit-up like motions in life without being aware of it. For example, instead of doing a full crunch to get out of bed, try rolling onto your side and pushing yourself up with your arm. Or, make sure you sit up tall on the upright bicycle so you don't slouch forward in a flexed, curled forward position.

Send certified personal trainer Kathleen Trotter your questions at She will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

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The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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