How Strong Is Your Core? And Why Should You Care?

One of the biggest factors hampering my productivity these days is stiffness and pain in my back. Back problems put a limit on how long I can sit in a chair, and how long I can sit in a chair limits how much writing I get done in a day.

Now that I’ve gotten in the habit of stretching every day, a lot of the chronic tension in my back has disappeared, and my neck and shoulders don’t ache after several hours at the computer anymore. So now it’s time for me to add another small step to improve the health of those muscles.

You’re probably already aware that having strong core muscles has many benefits, including:

  • Better posture, and all the benefits that good posture brings (easier breathing, fewer back problems, better flow of signals through the spine which improves the functioning of all your organs), and no age-related hunching.
  • You’ll look thinner. Strong core muscles are like having a natural girdle that keeps everything in place–a strong core helps give dancers that long, lean look.
  • Better balance, which means reduced risk of falling. I was surprised to learn that, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians, more people rush to U.S. emergency rooms for injuries related to falling than from any other cause, and they’re the primary cause of accidental death in people over the age of 65.
  • Less back pain from sitting for long periods of time and fewer injuries from lifting heavy things.

What’s that, you say? You hate situps and crunches? Me too. But there are tons of other simple exercises you can do to strengthen those core muscles. I’m going to be doing four core exercises described in Ellie Krieger’s Small Steps to Big Results: a 12-week Action Plan to a Better Life — the Bridge, the Quadruped, the Side Plank, and balancing on one leg with the non-supporting leg held straight in front of you. (The first three of these exercises are shown in the Mayo Clinic Slideshow below.)

Here are some links to help you get started:

You don’t have to go nuts and do a whole workout to see benefits — even picking a single core-strengthening exercise and doing it regularly is an excellent small step.

How are you doing with your small steps? What benefits are you seeing? Where do you need help?

What small step are you going to add this week?

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