Core muscles provide strength and stability in every movement we make, and are focused all around the torso including the stomach, back, chest and pelvic regions. When we move, our cores muscles work in a chain reaction with different sets of muscles working together to stabilize us and provide strength to our movements. Having a strong core gives us freedom of movement, and help us have strong balance.
A strong core is much more than having defined abdominal muscles. The well-defined six pack is partly due to the amount of body fat, or lack of fat, which covers them, rather than the strength of a person’s core.
Benefits of a Strong Core
Our movements often begin from our core area, so strong muscles there give us stability and strength for all activity. This improves our overall fitness and health, and makes us less likely to be injured through exercise and movement. A strong core helps us exercise better, but it is everyday movements, such as mopping the floor or putting on our shoes, that a strong core is essential.
Core muscles surround our internal organs and our spine, when they are strong it helps protect them. Strong core muscles support us so we can move. When they are weak, it can lead to stresses and staring on our spine and cause backaches and other types of pain.
A strong core gives us a good posture, helping us to move strongly and look good too! Be mindful of how you sit and stand and use your core muscles to hold a natural posture, rather than slouching or hunching your shoulders. This will help your core muscles develop and create good posture habits.
Exercises to Strengthen Your Core
Exercises such as the plank and side plank help to strengthen and condition the core muscles, as do abdominal crunches and segmental rotations. An internet search will bring up a list of core exercises and instructions on how to do them.
Forms of exercise such as yoga and Pilates are great for developing a strong core. Pilates uses core muscles to hold the torso still while using your limbs in different ways to increase strength and balance. Yoga has more of a focus on mindfulness while holding poses that use the core. Both forms of exercise work well together, so you could try both to strengthen your core. If your core muscles are weak, you will benefit from some gentle core exercises to begin to strengthen them, rather than going for sets of ab crunches.
There are other exercises that can be done at any point during the day to help maintain and improve core strength. For women, this include pelvic floor exercises where the muscles are contracted and held for 30 seconds and then released. Another simple exercise to get the core working is to draw your stomach in and hold for ten seconds. Do this several times per day. The good thing about this exercise is you can do it whenever you feel like it, such as while working at your desk.
Desk exercises are a great way to keep active while sitting at work. One exercise that you can try is leg extensions, which is raising your leg off the floor while it is straight and holding it for as long as possible. Do the same with the other leg. This exercise engages the lower core muscles, and something that is not difficult to do several times during your working day.
Other ways to improve your core is just to be more active than you usually are. Increased activity means you use your core muscles more. There are various ways you can increase your overall activity levels throughout your day, for example, you can take the stairs instead of an elevator, cycle or walk to work, or even dancing your way through your household chores!
Improve your core while standing at a work desk by using a stability, or desk balance board. These consist of a non-slip board you can stand on that tilts and twist if you wish to do so. Rather like a surfboard, it allows you to move, turn and balance to engage your core muscles as you work. Keeping active as an office worker is important, as sitting for long hours can lead to health problems over time, so a desk balance board is one way to stay active. A balance board doesn’t have to be used at the office, you can use it anywhere where you’d usually be sitting such as at home.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Eating a healthy diet is good for your body and helps to keep all muscles, including core muscles, in good repair. Eat a diet that is rich in vitamins and minerals, as well as lean proteins and unsaturated fats. When you cut out the junk food, salty snacks and limit your alcohol intake, you will lose body fat that will help give your core muscles definition, as well as bringing benefits to your overall health. Also, when you eat healthily, it keeps you motivated to be healthy in other areas of life, including making you more likely to take part in exercise. Hydration is also important for keeping all your bodily systems working as they should, and it also helps to decrease the appetite if you are looking to lose weight. Drink eight large glasses of water throughout the day, or more if you are having a tough workout.
A strong core is something that we all need to live an active, healthy life. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle or have an office job that involves sitting at a desk for long periods of time, then your core muscles may become weak, leaving you prone to injury and chronic pain. Make an effort to do something to improve your core every day, either by taking on a fitness regime or by remembering to do core training while you are doing other daily activities.