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How to Start Being Active

Strengthening Your Core

​​​​​Keeping your core strong is important at any age. Balance, posture, and back health have all been linked to core strength. Your core is the most important part of all your body’s movements, whether you’re walking, carrying something heavy, or playing sports.

What are the core muscles?

Many people think that their abdominal muscles (abs) are the only core muscles. However, the core muscles are the muscles in your torso that keep the body stable and balanced. It takes many different muscles working together to keep your body well aligned for all your daily activities.

There are 2 types of core muscles:

  • stabilizers, which attach right to the spine and support its movement
  • movers, which support the stabilizers and work with them to move the body

All of the core muscles work together to support and move the body safely. Core muscles give a base of support so you can move your body to do everyday tasks and be active.

Why is core fitness important?

In Canada, many adults spend over half of the hours they’re awake at work. This means many people sit for a good part of the day. People also sit a lot at home and while they’re driving. When people are sitting, the core muscles are relaxed. It’s a good idea to try to engage your core muscles while you’re sitting.

A great way to start working your core is to think about your posture throughout the day. Several times a day, take a minute to stand tall, relax your shoulders, and think about your posture.

Having a strong core can help improve your back health, balance, and your functional fitness level. Functional fitness is being able to maintain a fitness level that lets you do the tasks you need to do every day (e.g., shovel the driveway, rake leaves, carry home heavy groceries). A strong core can also help you stay safe so you don’t fall on snow or ice in the winter.

Core Exercises—Get Started Safely

When you start to work on improving your core strength, make sure you start safely. Talk to your doctor to see if you’re ready to be active and find out what you can do that’s safe. Start slowly and talk to a certified exercise professional if you’re not sure how to start your new exercise routine.

If you’re just starting to focus on increasing your core strength, it’s a good idea to sign up for a class or work with a certified exercise professional so you learn the right ways to do core exercises. After you learn how to do core exercises, you can practice them at home with little or no equipment.

Group activity classes like yoga or Pilates are a good way to start because there is a lot of focus on core strength in the poses and movements. Look for a beginner program with an instructor who can help you if you have questions. Ask about other types of exercise classes with core exercises in them.

Examples of Core Exercises

A good way to start thinking about your core is to focus on your posture. As you stand or walk, try to engage your core by pulling your belly button in towards your spine.

As you progress and your core gets stronger, you can start to do more challenging exercises like standing on one foot. You can also use core-strengthening equipment like stability balls, medicine balls, and wobble boards. If you don’t know how to use fitness equipment, ask a certified exercise professional.

When you’re a little more advanced, try core exercises like planks and V-sits, which help strengthen the muscles that help stabilize your spine.

Thinking Ahead

Make core-strengthening exercises part of your routine when you’re getting ready for any activity or sport.

If you’re just starting to strengthen your core, start slowly and ask a certified exercise professional to help you get started safely.

Current as of: October 24, 2018

Author: Chronic Disease Prevention, Alberta Health Services