Forget the Six-Pack Abs and Do It For the Cough Reflex


You already know that my fitness goals changed long ago. Looking at what the future might bring, let me urge to you look at a different and more compelling reason to focus on your midsection development.

A large percentage of people walking in to see the doctor are coming in because of a serious cough. You’ve had the experience before and so have I. But you’ve probably never considered its role as a primary defense mechanism which becomes increasingly important with age.

At first glance, this fascinating reflex loop can be understood as an important reaction to something that would pose a threat to the ability to breathe, or a potentially toxic chemical. Another extremely critical function of coughing is the expulsion of secretions from the lungs.

As we age, the ability to cough can be compromised by weakened muscles and bones. Remember, the movement of air in and out of your lungs is not accomplished by your lungs, it is a function of the movement of the surrounding muscles and bones.

The primary muscles and bones are the diaphragm and rib cage, along with surrounding muscles and bones that work in concert to accomplish expansion and contraction. Many focus mainly on the diaphragm and its strategic importance, but breathing improvement should involve strengthening the entire physiological breathing apparatus.

This means that exercises like seated close grip pull-downs and bench presses enter into the equation, as well, because the ribcage, diaphragm, and intercoastal muscles form the means of creating the expansion and contraction of the lungs. One of the best exercises for the entire ribcage musculature is the dumbbell pullover shown here:


Coughs, at times, can generate enough pressure and force to crack ribs. This possibility becomes more likely in the event of osteoporosis. These points are not made to scare you but simply to enlighten you regarding the importance of aerobic and resistance training to the maintenance of your general good health. Nothing is better for bone health than proper nutrition and resistance exercise. Nothing!

If you can pick up some well defined abs along the way, consider it a bonus!

To Your Health and Fitness,


If you like my blog, you’ll find my collection of Health and Fitness articles on Pinterest good reading, also:

The Senior Health and Fitness Blog by Steven Siemons is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Categories: Fitness


6 replies

  1. Hey Steven great article as always.. I think more and more of us in their mid-50’s are starting to realize the importance of health as we get older… But I have realized the change in mind life, my grandson even talking me into making a motivational lol, of course he had to help me upload it.

  2. Dear Steve,
    Thank you for writing this article on coughing. I have been coughing for a long time and have been to doctors. They did find me with Scleroderma and that coughing might be the side affects. The coughing has gotten worse, 28 to 40 times a day.
    I was doing the P-90 exercise program and felt great. Had some arm surgery and stopped exercising months ago. I was on the computer this morning looking for a new exercise program and read your article.
    You got me fired up. I’m going get back to the P-90 program. I’m 65 year old, 6ft tall, 175lbs, can’t stand pot-belly guys and believe in working and staying in shape. The coughing is driving me up the wall.

    Thank you Steve, have a great day!

  3. Admiring the time and energy you put into your website and detailed information you present.
    It’s nice to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same outdated rehashed material.
    Great read! I’ve saved your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my
    Google account.

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