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Joseph Ciccolo, PhD

Joseph T. Ciccolo, Ph.D., is a Program Director in the Tobacco Control Research Branch (TCRB) within the Behavioral Research Program (BRP) of the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences (DCCPS) at the National Cancer Institute (NCI). His primary research interests are broadly focused on the efficacy of novel clinical treatments for addiction and mental illness. His specific area of interest has been cigarette smoking cessation in high-risk and hard-to-reach populations. He is particularly interested in mechanisms of change and behavioral strategies that can be used to help smokers quit.

Prior to joining NCI, Dr. Ciccolo was the Principal Investigator of multiple NIH-funded clinical trials, and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biobehavioral Sciences at Teachers College, Columbia University. He also was a regular grant reviewer for the Center for Scientific Review and has served as a Senior Associate Editor and an editorial board member for several scientific journals. To date, Dr. Ciccolo has authored over 70 original scientific papers, reviews, and other publications. After receiving his Ph.D. from The University of Texas at Austin, he completed an NIH-funded T32 postdoctoral fellowship at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

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Senior woman stretching with classmates at the yoga studio Trade Latin

Shoulder and Abdominal Strengthening Exercises

Ask the Expert


I am a 54-year-old, postmenopausal woman who has developed a flabby stomach and rounded shoulders. I tend to strain my neck trying to do sit-ups to tighten my tummy. Do you have any suggestions on strengthening my upper neck and shoulders? Is there an alternative to sit-ups for tightening my abdomen?


Doing sit-ups will make your abdominal muscles stronger and tighter, but will not get rid of your "flabby stomach." Although some fitness DVDs and advice in magazines and books may make you think that "spot reducing" is possible, in truth, you cannot exercise just one area of your body in hopes of reducing the fat in that area.

The only way to achieve the result you want is by increasing your daily physical activity with aerobic and resistance exercises. These will help reduce your total body fat.

The best way to help with your neck and shoulders is to focus on standing and sitting up straight. Pretend you have a pole going through your body, keeping you upright. Practice standing or sitting tall and strong with your shoulders back and your ears in direct alignment over your shoulders. Whenever you notice yourself slumping, realign the way you are standing or sitting.

From what you described, it's likely that the muscles in your chest, shoulders and neck are feeling tight and tense. You may want to see a massage therapist to help you reduce the tightness and tension in that area so you can start to build strength and increase flexibility.

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