Right to the Core
We know that getting fit is important for a healthy life. Often, we equate fitness with running, cycling, walking or some other form of exercise. But there’s one aspect of fitness that is almost always overlooked; our core muscles.
Whenever I talk about building muscle everyone pictures someone at a weight bench pumping iron until their biceps bulge out of their shirts. But strengthening and toning your muscles can be much more subtle. And even a small amount of work on your core strength can dramatically improve your overall fitness and well-being.
What Are Your Core Muscles?
Your core muscles form a ring around the middle of your body. Most people think of the six-pack muscles in the abdomen, but the core includes a range of muscles in your sides and back as well. Their job is to connect the top and bottom halves of your body whilst allowing them to move independently. They form a strong foundation that the majority of your other muscles depend upon when you move your body.
When Do I Use My Core Muscles?
Practically every movement you make and every position you put your body into involves your core muscles. They are really important. Bending over to pick something up, twisting to look behind you and sitting up in bed are more obvious moments your core is activated. But running, walking, sitting in a chair and even standing still all rely on core strength. Without it the top half of your body would simply flop over.
What Are the Benefits of Core Strength?
Building a strong core provides a firm and flexible support for every activity your body performs. The stability provided gives you better balance and better posture which in turn helps prevent falls and injuries in your day-to-day life. The support from your core muscles takes the strain away from your skeleton and helps hold it in place alleviating some forms of back pain, stiffness and soreness when you move your body.
Any time you move, whether it’s for exercise or doing the housework or gardening, a strong core will help you perform better and reduce muscle fatigue in the other parts of your body by giving them a firm base to attach to.
How Can I Build My Core Strength?
One of the best things about core strength is that you don’t need a gym or expensive equipment to improve it. There are lots of exercises you can do at home. Make sure you seek medical advice before attempting any new exercise regime.
Most people think of sit-ups as the prime core exercise. I advise people not to do sit-ups as they are not particularly effective, and the continual flexing of the base of your spine can lead to lower back injuries.
My top tips are planks, leg raises and mountain climbers. If you’re not sure what these are have a chat with your local personal trainer or gym instructor, or search on YouTube for easy-to-follow tutorials.
Take your core strength seriously and it will improve every aspect of your fitness as well as provide the central support essential for your body. By Robert Grant