Easy exercises to shore up your core

By adding a few simple exercises to your daily routine, you can strengthen your midsection.

Core exercises are not just for your stomach. The core also includes your hips, buttocks, back, side, pelvis, and other muscles. Eric L’Italien is a certified strength and conditioning trainer with Harvard’s Spaulding Rehabilitation Network. He says that your core muscles help stabilize your trunk so your limbs are able to move.

By keeping you active, a strong core can support your cardiovascular health. A stable and flexible core is essential for many sports and physical activities, such as cycling, golfing, tennis, other racquet games, and swimming. Second, regular core exercises can help to prevent low back pain. Four out of five Americans experience it at some time in their life. Back pain is a common reason for people to visit their doctor, and it’s also a big reason why people don’t exercise.

Protect your body from chronic inflammation.

Scientists have proven that low-grade chronic inflammation can become a silent killer, contributing to heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and other diseases. Harvard Medical School experts offer simple tips on how to combat inflammation and remain healthy

Easier options

Some core exercises performed on the floor may be too difficult for older people or those who are not very active. Planks are a variation of a sit-up. Crunches involve holding up the “up” portion of a pushup. There are many ways to strengthen your core without having to lie on the floor. L’Italien says that any movement where you have to stabilize and control your trunk as your arms or legs move will help train your core.

If you’ve recently had hip or spine surgery or are suffering from chronic pain or heart disease, you should consult your doctor before beginning a core training program. For those who are new to core training, two easy exercises are recommended: the chair stand and standing side leg lift (see pictures).

Chair stand

Sit on a chair, feet apart, and hands placed on your thighs. Tend to your buttocks and belly muscles. Slowly rise up and then sit back down. Repeat this 7 to 9 more times.

Standing side leg lift

Hold the chair’s back with your left. Maintain your balance on both feet. Slowly lift the right leg until the foot is approximately six inches above the floor. Hold, then return to the starting position. Repeat these 7 to 9 repetitions, and then repeat the same with your left leg.

You can carry that weight.

L’Italien recommends walking while carrying a heavy weight (or other object) in your hands. He says that these exercises are great because they strengthen your core and simulate everyday activities like carrying groceries or a washing basket. You can also use similar items in place of dumbbells.

L’Italien says that choosing the right weight is crucial. The weight should be such that it makes you feel the need to stabilize your abdominals in order to remain steady but not so heavy as to cause discomfort. Be sure that your spine, including your neck, is straight. Don’t slouch; lean to the side or forward.

As you walk, breathe deeply and maintain tension in your abdominals. Rest at least 30 seconds after lowering the weight. Repeat the walk one or two more times.

Laundry Basket Carry. Stand straight up and hold either a dumbbell or a fully or partially filled laundry basket before your body. Keep your elbows and upper arm close to your body.

The farmer’s carry. This curry is named after the fact that it mimics farmers carrying buckets full of milk. You hold a dumbbell or a bag with groceries in each hand, and your arms are down at your sides.

Suitcase Carry. It’s similar to the farmer’s carrying, but you only use one hand. All the weight is on one side, which makes your core muscles work harder to prevent you from leaning. Do two or three walks on each side.

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