Core Muscles Exercises Should be the "Core" of your Exercise Routine
Joan Pellegrini, MD
Just about everyone knows that exercise is part of a healthy living routine. When people think of exercise, they think of walking, running, swimming, or some other type of activity that involves strength and speed. I suspect very few people think of stretching and toning exercises. However, if you ask any athlete about this, they will likely tell you that stretching and toning exercises are a very important part of their routine. Earlier this year I addressed the issue of chronic low back pain and the importance of stretching and exercise. As it turns out, stretching and toning play an important role in just about everything we do.
One of the problems with most exercises is that they focus on strengthening the arms and legs but do not adequately address the core muscles. These are the muscles between the groins and the rib cage. These muscles help with balance and posture. Good balance and posture then help the rest of the body stay in alignment which in turn reduces pain and stress. Therefore, whether you are a hardcore fitness junkie or a couch potato, these exercises are the ones for you. I think many of my non-athletic patients are intimidated by starting an exercise routine. The nice thing about core muscle exercises is that they are simple, can be easily tailored, offer very quick results, do not take much time, do not require a fitness club membership, and are unlikely to cause injury. They are the perfect starting point.
Working on your core muscles is not just about doing “ab” crunches that work the abdominal muscles. These exercises also include working on the side muscles and back muscles which completes the balance/posture package. Also, there is more than just increasing strength. You also will stretch these muscles which in turn will lead to more flexibility. It is the flexibility that will reduce pain in most people.
The Mayo Clinic has a web page with excellent pictures of how to do these exercises and I have included the web address at the bottom of this page. Once you master these, you may even want to investigate yoga or Pilates which are exercises that build on these principles. Most strengthening and toning exercises also start with breathing exercises. Just a simple straight posture with deep breathing does wonders for relieving stress of both the mind and the body.
Mayo Clinic Core Training Page