Anti-Aging Benefits of Strengthening Your Core
Do you run religiously on a treadmill for hours every week? Do you lift weights, too, and assume you’re covering all of your fitness basics? Well you’ve got a good start, but you’re missing out on a very important fitness staple that is a key to your health and longevity: building your core.
What exactly is your “core”? It’s a set of 29 muscles in your back, abdomen and pelvis, muscles that are essential to your ability to function on a daily basis. It’s because of your core muscles that you can control your movements, maintain balance and stability. They also protect and support your back, which is an essential element as you age.
If your exercise program does not address your core muscles, your body can become weak in its center, making you more prone to poor posture, lower back pain and muscle injuries.
Strengthening your core muscles, on the other hand, means that your spine will be supported and your body will be less prone to injury during sports activities and also during daily life.
Considering that more people are rushed to U.S. emergency rooms for injuries related to falling than from any other cause, and, that according to the American Academy of Family Physicians, they’re the primary cause of accidental death in people over the age of 65, strengthening your core muscles to keep your center of gravity stable could very well save and extend your life.
The Benefits of Strengthening Your Core
When your core muscles are strong, it makes you more stable and less prone to injury. Studies have shown, for instance, that:
- Core stability has an important role in injury prevention among athletes.
- Core strength enhancement programs can help prevent injuries in workers. Among one group of firefighters, an intervention to improve flexibility and strength in the trunk stabilizer and core muscles groups resulted in 42 percent fewer injuries and reduced injury- related lost work time by 62 percent in a 12-month period.
- An eight-week rehabilitation program that improved hip and core muscle strength in women reduced the knee abduction movement, which is associated with developing patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS).
The Mayo Clinic has also pointed out numerous ways that core exercises can benefit you, such as:
- Better balance and stability
- Strengthening and toning your abdominal muscles.
- Making it easier to perform physical activities of all kinds, from swinging a golf club to getting dishes from your top kitchen cabinets So even though toned core muscles may not make as big an aesthetic impression as toned abdominals or biceps, toned core muscles will keep you agile and stable even as you get older. What is the Best Way to Strengthen Your Core Muscles? You don’t need to go to a gym or buy special equipment to strengthen your core; you simply need to perform exercises that will get all your core muscles working together as you use the trunk of your body without support. Three such exercises include:
- Bridge: Lie on your back with your knees bent (feet on the floor). Contract your abdominal muscles and raise your hips off the floor, holding the position for five to eight seconds. Slowly lower your hips to the floor, then repeat the move. For a more advanced bridge, try extending one knee, then the other, while in the bridge position.
- Plank: Lie on your stomach, resting on your forearms with your palms facing down. Raise yourself from the floor so you are resting on your elbows and toes. Keeping your back flat, contract your core muscles and hold for 10 seconds, then lower yourself to the floor and repeat. For a challenge, try stretching out one arm or leg at a time, or reaching out an arm and opposite leg at the same time.
- Side Plank: Lie on your left side, and then raise your body onto your left forearm, keeping your shoulders, hips and knees aligned. Rest your right arm on your side. Hold the position for 10 seconds. Repeat on the right side. For a more advanced side plank, raise from your left hand with your hips coming off the floor and extend your right hand toward the ceiling.
Whether you want to excel at sports, play tennis on the weekends or simply stay strong and active well into your golden years, building your core is essential. Be sure you are including core-strengthening moves into your life now to experience the phenomenal benefits both now and later.
Want to try an exercise that will work your core right now? Try the Quadruped:
Get on your hands and knees, keeping your hands below your shoulders and your head and neck aligned with your back. Contract your core muscles, then raise one arm off the floor and reach ahead. Return the arm to the floor, then repeat with the opposite arm and each leg. For a challenge, raise one arm and the opposite leg at the same time, then repeat with the other side.
The American Journal of Sports Medicine October 7, 2010 Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology 2007; 2: 3. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 2004 Jun;36(6):926-34. MayoClinic.com Core Exercises