Develop Stronger, Flexible Core Muscles

Solution

Exercise programs often spotlight arms, legs, and abdominal muscles, while paying little attention to many of the muscles that make up your body's core. Your core includes muscles in your back, side, hips, pelvis, and buttocks, as well as your abdominal muscles. These muscles are critical to improving performance in almost any sport or activity, sidestepping debilitating back pain, and enhancing balance and stability.

A strong, flexible core can help you:
• Ward off or ease low back pain
• Ease the strain of everyday activities like housework, gardening, etc.
• Add power to sports and other pleasurable pursuits
• Increase agility when lifting, bending, turning, or reaching
• Improve balance and stability to prevent falls
• Strengthen your abs with the support of strong back and hip muscles

Want to bring more power to athletic pursuits like running, swimming, golf, and tennis? Ward off or ease lower back pain? Build up your balance and stability so that you’re less likely to fall? Do you dream of running a marathon, or flashing washboard abs at the beach? Or are you simply hoping to make everyday acts like bending, turning, and reaching easier so that housework, fix-it projects, and gardening stay on your agenda? A strong, flexible core underpins all these goals.

Your core — which includes back, side, pelvic, and buttock muscles — forms a sturdy central link between your upper and lower body. Much like the trunk of a tree, core muscles need to be strong, yet flexible. A weak or inflexible core impairs how well your arms and legs function, draining power from many of the moves you make. For these reasons, core fitness should be part of every exercise program.

www.health.harvard.edu