Core Strength is a complex and highly undervalued area of health and wellness: A strong and mobile core underpins nearly everything that we do, from our posture, stamina and balance to taking part in physical exercise. Our Core muscles are critical in helping us to achieve daily tasks such as putting items on shelves, bending down to tie our shoes, even walking on uneven ground.
The need for good core strength increases further for sedentary individuals. When we spend the majority of a day sat down the muscles of the core are not being used effectively, as a result they weaken, leading to poor posture, back pain and increased vulnerability to injuries.
Here are just a few of the benefits associated with a strong core:
- Reduction in back pain – research shows that people with weak core muscles have an increased risk of back ache and injury due to inadequate spinal support.
- Improved posture – working all of the muscles in the torso helps you to stand tall with your body in alignment rather than slouching. Improvements in posture can reduce the chances of vertebrae or disc damage and it can help to fully open up your airways making breathing easier. For more information on posture click here.
- Improved balance – a stronger core can improve our agility and balance allowing us to move quickly in any direction, stand on uneven ground and stand still on the spot, reducing our risk of falling over.
Yoga and Pilates are great ways to strengthen your core. There are many yoga and pilates videos to use if you cannot get to a class. Click here for an example of yoga for beginners.
Improving your core strength can be done anytime, anywhere without the need for expensive equipment. Simply adding 5-10 minutes per day of core strength work can really benefit your overall strength, posture and wellbeing.
Here are a few quick and easy exercises that can be done at home:
- Leg Lifts: An easy one to do whilst in the kitchen waiting for food to cook are leg lifts. Hold on to the kitchen counter for balance and lean forwards slightly. Lift one leg back off the floor as high as you can go and squeeze as you reach the top. Alternate each leg, squeezing at the top each time. For an extra push, pulse 15 times at the top. Make sure both hips are kept square to the kitchen surface. These can also be done from floor level to resting on your forearms (see picture).
- A bridge: Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and arms by your side palms down. Keep your back in a neutral position and raise your hips off the floor until your hips are aligned with your knees and shoulders, keeping your abs tight. Hold the position for a few seconds before lowering down.
- Planks: Start on your hands and knees and lower your forearms to the floor (shoulder-width apart) with your elbows under your shoulders. Step your feet back to form a straight line with your back. Maintain a straight line from heels through to your head looking down at the floor. Tighten your abs and hold for as long as you can (see header picture).
- Sit-ups: Lie down on your back, bend your legs with your feet firmly on the ground. Place your hands behind your neck . Curl your upper body all the way up towards your knees, exhaling as you lift. Slowly lower back down.
Try the above exercises at home. Start slowly and build the reps of each exercise. Even the smallest of improvements or additions to your routines can make a difference.
If you prefer to follow a video, take a look at the link below:
10 minute core workout video
Concentrate on making time for 2 core exercise workouts a week (however much or little you feel comfortable with).
Always be careful when trying new exercises and consult your doctor first if needed. Always start slowly and gradually build up the intensity, duration and frequency.
Harvard Health (2019) Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/the-real-world-benefits-of-strengthening-your-core
Livestrong (2019) Available at: https://www.livestrong.com
Mayo Clinic (2019) Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/core-exercises/art-20044751