Exercise is essential for your health. From improving your strength and flexibility, energy and vitality, to lessening your need for medication, it proves the long-held theory that your body was designed to move.
If you already love to exercise, you can certainly attest to this. For those not so fond of it, it’s important to find ways to make it fun, so it becomes something you want to do rather than a chore you feel compelled to do. And if you want to work out but feel like you’re too old, too overweight, or too many years have gone by since you’ve tried it, remember one important thing: It is NEVER too late to be healthy.
Many people think of cardiovascular exercises as the essence of fitness, but strengthening the core in particular is a large piece of the puzzle in terms of achieving optimum health.
The Importance of the Core
When you think of core strength, you might envision crunching your way to a six-pack, but it’s so much more than that.
Your core muscles are like a corset around your midsection. The Transverse Abdominis (or TA) wraps horizontally around the entirety of your torso, spanning across the space between your ribs and hips. Its primary function is to hug your waist in order to support your internal organs and lumbar spine when you bend, twist, lift, etc.
Your core muscles aren’t just your abdominal muscles, but those that cover your sides and back as well. Your pelvic and hip muscles help keep you standing up straight and free of pain, and all of your core muscles work together to ensure your spine stays stable and strong.
If your core muscles are weak, your back becomes susceptible to injury and chronic pain. Weak muscles also affect other parts of the body. Regardless of the work you put into keeping your arms and legs strong, if you don’t focus on your core, they will also be weak.
The Many Functional Benefits of Keeping Your Core Strong
There are many reasons proper core strength benefits your wellbeing:
- Improved strength and flexibility: Your core muscles keep your spine stable, so you can move and function with ease every day.
- Reduced back pain: Did you know that 31 million Americans experience low-back pain at any given time? Back pain in general can be a result of poor core strength, since these muscles can’t provide the spine the support it needs to stay upright. Studies show that core strength is linked to preventing or treating back pain (1, 2, 3).
- Improved balance, posture, and stability: If you have poor posture, you may be subjecting yourself to upper and lower back pain. Proper core strength can make way for better posture, and ultimately provide you the strength you need to stand and walk correctly. This enables your body to balance and stabilize better as well.
- Improved athletic performance: Whether it’s the physical aspect of picking up grocery bags, or actual recreational and athletic activities, proper core strength makes moving about all that much easier.
Additional Benefits of Being Physically Fit
Studies show that exercising and being physically fit lower your levels of stress, improve your sleep quality, boost energy levels, and even decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression.
And along with improving your mental health, being physically fit helps you achieve a healthy weight. This means you lower your risk of contracting type 2 diabetes, certain forms of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.
Learn How to Plank
In the following eight-minute video, personal trainer Jill Rodriguez from Mercola.com breaks down plank positions that are perfect for beginners.
Check out her demonstrations and variations to improve your core and boost your overall health.