I just got back from our weekend retreat a few hours ago. While I promised myself that I’d spend more time relaxing than working, I did find time to read in my new core anatomy book while staring out at nature. Ever wondered why you should worry about working your core, beyond getting those ever-elusive abs? Well, look no further. Here’s 6 benefits to working on your core that don’t involve getting beach body-ready.
1) Improve your athletic performance.
Do you play sports like football, basketball, golf, or tennis? If you do, odds are that you perform a lot of twisting movements: swinging a club, pivoting to pass the ball, or delivering that perfect serve to your opponent. Developing core strength makes it easier for your torso to do its twisting job, helping you to further dominate in your game of choice.
2) Protect your spinal column.
When they work in tandem with your lumbar muscles, abdominal muscles give a lot of support to your spine. This core support helps to prevent lower back pain, which affects nearly 80% of Americans (citation). Losing weight in the midsection helps lower back pain, too. Carrying excess belly fat weakens your spine, putting your discs in precarious positions where they could slip. Supporting your spine AND burning belly fat make core strength doubly attractive here.
Related – “Can Lifting Weights Help with Back Pain?”
3) Relax tense muscles.
Ever woken up with an aching back from the day before? It happens to me more often than I’ll admit. This morning backache is probably a sign that your spine didn’t relax along with the rest of your body. Adding a few minutes of core exercise to your nightly ritual can relax your lumbar muscles after life’s daily strains. Try a few 30-second planks before bed and see how you feel in the morning.
4) Improve digestive health.
This one surprised me quite a bit. Those planks and crunches that you love to hate so much do more to flatten your belly than burn fat. Ab work also helps your digestion, which lessens bloating and constipation after meals. By keeping your core moving, you’ll keep your food moving along, too.
5) Reduce disease.
Attacking those core muscles helps to lower your risk for type 2 diabetes. Excess belly fat lends itself to diabetes’ onset; I learned this the hard way when I was 100 lbs overweight and became pre-diabetic (background). Yes, there’s more to lessening your diabetes risk and losing weight than crunches and leg lifts. Still, working your core and dropping belly fat will carry you a long way towards better health.
6) Maintain cardiovascular health.
Enjoy circuit training but hate running? Have no fear! Working your core muscles within a circuit routine gives a cardio substitute for running, dodging the jarring impact on knees and spine that result from heavy footfalls. Yes, planking can compete with sprinting here.
If you’re just starting out with building core strength, start small. A simple plank (raised or elbow) held for 30 seconds at a time gives a great platform to build upon. The dead bug is another personal favorite. Try building up to 60 second planks and 20 dead bugs at a time, then look to Google or your trainer to feed you new core exercises. Good luck.