|NEWSRoom | Source: Harvard Health Publications|
Beyond Tighter Abs: Core Exercises Help Improve Balance, Prevent Falls and Ward Off Back Pain
If a flat tummy and chiseled abs aren’t your Holy Grail, you may skip core exercises. But those planks, squats, and lunges can deliver a host of benefits beyond tightening up your tummy. According to Core Exercises: 6 Workouts to Tighten Your Abs, Strengthen Your Back, and Improve Balance, a new special health report from Harvard Medical School, core exercises can help improve your athletic performance, help prevent or ease back pain, improve posture, and power everyday activities.
Your core muscles are a sturdy, central link connecting your upper and lower body. Forces that propel movement originate in your core, or transfer through it on the way to an end destination. The full arc of a movement is known as the kinetic chain. If you were tossing a ball to a dog, the kinetic chain ideally would run from the ground through your legs, hips, trunk and back, shoulder, elbow, and wrist in an even transfer of force. A hitch in the chain—a weak hip, perhaps—undercuts the strength of the movement and may start a chain of misalignments in joints and limbs that feed into injuries over time. Weak or inflexible core muscles can impair how well your arms and legs function. And that saps power from many of the moves you make. Properly building up your core cranks up the power. A strong core also enhances balance and stability, helping to prevent falls and injuries during sports or other activities.
A strong, flexible core underpins almost everything you do. Here are a few examples:
Everyday acts. Bending to put on shoes or scoop up a package, turning to look behind you, sitting in a chair, or simply standing still—these are just a few of the many mundane actions that rely on your core and that you might not notice until they become difficult or painful. Even basic activities of daily living—bathing or dressing, for example—call on your core.
On-the-job tasks. Jobs that involve lifting, twisting, and standing all rely on core muscles. But less obvious tasks—like sitting at your desk for hours—engage your core as well.
A healthy back. Low back pain—a debilitating, sometimes excruciating problem affecting four out of five Americans at some point in their lives—may be prevented by exercises that promote well-balanced, resilient core muscles. When back pain strikes, a regimen of core exercises is often prescribed to relieve it, coupled with medications, physical therapy, or other treatments if necessary.
Sports and other pleasurable activities. A strong core powers golfing, tennis or other racquet sports, biking, running, swimming, baseball, volleyball, kayaking, rowing, and many other athletic activities. Less often mentioned are sexual activities, which call for core power and flexibility, too.
Housework, fix-it work, and gardening. Bending, yanking, lifting, twisting, carrying, hammering, reaching overhead—even vacuuming, mopping, and dusting are acts that spring from, or pass through, the core.
Core Exercises: 6 Workouts to Tighten Your Abs, Strengthen Your Back, and Improve Balance offers six workouts that can be individualized to help readers build a strong, flexible core.
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