Why It's Important to Strengthen Your Core
It is important to strengthen your core to reduce fatigue, lower your chances of back pain, and improve posture. This will make everything seem easier and less injury-prone, from reaching your personal best in the weights arena to simply lifting your grocery bags out of the car.
Core strength is a term you’ll hear thrown around pretty frequently these days. It seems to be mentioned wherever you go. From fitness classes and athletics clubs to regular everyday health advice forums or doctor’s offices, somebody will bring up core strength. So, what exactly is your core?
What is Your Core?
Without getting too technical, your core includes the muscles of your trunk or torso, keeping you upright and allowing you to bend, flex, and twist. As is the case with most things involving the human body, it is never just one thing working in isolation. There are numerous muscles involved in your core, including your pelvic floor muscles, transversus abdominis, multifidus, internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, and erector spinae and many more.
Thankfully you don’t need to remember all these—unless you want to, of course! All you need to know is that they build a sort of “wall” around the front, back, sides, and undercarriage of your torso and work together to provide strength, stability, and mobility.
As the saying goes, though, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and so is the case with your core. If your core muscles are weak or lack a good range of motion, the result is poor posture and overuse of the muscles of your lower back. Both will be reflected throughout your body with reduced mobility, points of weakness, and a higher likelihood of strains and injuries in your muscles and joints.
More often than not, the most frequent sign of a weak core is chronic back pain, usually felt in the lower back or lumbar region. This pain is a result of the back muscles taking over and doing all the work that the rest of the core muscles should be doing.
If you want to lift something heavy, like weights or a grocery bag, some muscle somewhere is going to have to do the work. This point is where your core muscles are supposed to kick in and jump to action. If, however, your core is too lazy or weak, your lower back will jump in and take on the heavy load. It’s capable of doing that, but it’s not designed to. Over time, this will create strain, weakness, and ultimately lead to chronic pain or that familiar and sudden feeling of “putting your back out.”
So, Why Strengthen My Core?
If you like numbers, here are some stats that say it all.
- 50% of all working Americans report having back pain annually
- Back pain accounts for more than 264 million lost workdays annually
- Estimates show that up to 80% of Americans will experience back pain at some point in their lives
Those statistics are incredible and reflect the sheer scale of a problem that can be easily modified. On a more personal scale, however, back pain is also quite unpleasant. It can be incredibly debilitating, affecting your work, and stopping you from doing your favorite things. In more chronic cases, it can lead to depression, social isolation, and poor overall health.
On a positive note, it’s an incredibly easy condition for the average healthy individual to prevent. Treatments such as painkillers and massage are effective for alleviating the symptoms of pain. As the saying goes, however, prevention is better than cure. If you want to say goodbye to your back pain on a more long-term basis, treat the cause rather than the symptom by strengthening your core muscles. One popular method for doing this is to workout regularly using a pilates reformer, a machine that introduces a more intense pilates workout to help strengthen the core muscles.
Benefits of Strengthening Your Core
- Better posture, resulting in less strain on muscles and joints
- Functional movement patterns
- Reduced likelihood of chronic or acute back pain
- Reduced wear and tear on joints and muscles
- Improved balance meaning less likelihood of falls and injury
For athletes, strength trainers, and fitness pros, the benefits of a strong, stable core will be felt across their entire training program. Increased flexibility, greater range of motion, and a more functional movement pattern will contribute hugely to improved results in their chosen field.
The benefits aren’t just for sportspeople, however. The human body is designed to move. A typical day for the average person can consist of multiple incidences of lifting, carrying, bending, and stretching. Even sitting for long periods requires a strong core to maintain good posture. In general, we spend most of our time unaware of our movement patterns with our only clue to muscle strain being that familiar “niggle” we feel when damage is already occurring.
Investing a bit of time in strengthening your core can make everyday living easier and pain-free. Developing healthy and functional movement patterns, retraining poor postural habits, and increasing stability in your step can all improve your quality of life across the board. Investing in a cheap ab toning belt to use in connection with your core strengthening program can also help give your abs a little extra boost. It’s important to take time to care for these muscles because your physical health begins at your “core.”