"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Why it is best to care about your core

Strengthening the muscles in your midsection can enable you to stay energetic and pain-free.

Whether you see it as a spare tire, a muffin top, or a love handle, it's quite common to have a roll of fat around your waist. But even for those who're not chubby, a bulging midriff can increase your risk of heart disease.

Despite the various ads touting “one easy trick” to losing belly fat, there's no getting around it: Slimming your waistline takes somewhat effort. An vital step is to strengthen your core, which incorporates the muscles in your abdomen, back, sides, pelvis and hips. However, a powerful core is barely a part of the image.

Why give attention to your core?

All types of exercise help burn calories, helping you drop some weight. But incorporating core strength exercises into your workout is very important for several reasons. First, many sports and other athletic activities are powered by a powerful core, including golfing, tennis and other racquet sports, biking, running, swimming, baseball, volleyball, kayaking, and rowing. Building core muscle strength could make your exercise routine more efficient — and even perhaps more enjoyable.

Second, having a powerful core helps improve balance, which reduces your risk of falling. It can even prevent other injuries, equivalent to muscle strains or spasms within the lower back. Well-developed core muscles help stabilize your spine, creating a powerful foundation for virtually all movement, including on a regular basis movements like reaching for a shelf or stretching on the ground. Purify the water. Also, with no strong core, your leg muscles can't function in an optimal position, which frequently puts unnecessary stress on the hips and knees. These common back and leg aches and pains often derail exercise routines, that are vital for a healthy heart. Finally, core conditioning improves posture, which contributes to a trimmer appearance.

Basic Competencies

The best exercises in your core goal several muscle groups without delay, equivalent to the planks, which make up the muscles within the abdomen, back, and sides. Although traditional planks are done on the ground, you'll be able to do a neater version using a desk or table (see “Plank on a Table”). Safran-Norton also recommends doing easy abdominal contraction exercises and doing arm and leg opposites, pictured below.

Board on the table

Starting position: Stand in front of a table or counter (or one other solid surface that won't move) together with your feet shoulder-width apart.

Motion: Keep your shoulders straight together with your elbows, arms aligned on the table as shown in the image. You can stand in your feet or in your toes depending on the image. Balance your body in a plank-like line. Pull your stomach up and, as for those who were pulling on tight jeans, rest the load of your upper body in your arms. Hold for 15 seconds. Rest for one to 2 minutes. Repeat. Over time, try to construct the hold to 2 minutes.

Raise the other arm and leg.

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Starting position: Kneel on all fours, keeping your hands and knees directly under your shoulders and hips. Keep your head and spine neutral.

Motion: Extend your left leg off the ground behind you while reaching out in front of you together with your right arm. Keeping your hips and shoulders square, attempt to bring the prolonged leg and arm parallel to the ground. Hold and return to the starting position, then repeat together with your right leg and left arm. This is a representative. Try to do eight to 10 reps, which counts as one set. When you're able, do two sets, with 30 to 90 seconds of rest in between.

Abdominal cramping

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Starting position: Kneel on all fours, keeping your hands and knees directly under your shoulders and hips. Keep your head and spine neutral—that's, don't bend or arch your back or neck.

Motion: Exhale as you tighten your abdominal muscles by pulling them toward your spine while keeping your spine neutral. Hold for five to 10 seconds. Release your abdominal muscles and return to the starting position. This is a representative. Try to do eight to 10 reps, which counts as one set. When you're able, do two sets, with 30 to 90 seconds of rest in between.

Exercise photos by Michael Carroll