These days, in the world of exercise, there’s lots of talk about your core and core stability. But exactly what is your core and why is stability so important?

Think of the core as the power centre of your body. It’s comprised of your abdominal (stomach) muscles and back muscles, including the muscles along the spine, as well as your hips and pelvis muscles. Almost any motion you make is generated from your core, and if it is weak – i.e., unstable – your other muscles need to pitch in to compensate, making you more vulnerable to injury.

The Benefits of Core Stability & Strength

By strengthening your core, you improve the power of every move you make, including any motion involving your arms or legs. A strong core also gives you stability and improves your balance, allowing you to more easily prevent falls or injuries during your activities – both in sports and your daily routine. It also helps prevent debilitating back pain or help to relieve it. In fact, core stability underpins almost any activity you undertake, including:

  • Everyday activities. Standing still, bending to tie your shoes or looking over your shoulder aren’t actions you immediately associate with your core, until it becomes painful to do them. The basic activities that make up daily life, such as sitting, bathing or dressing, all involve your core.
  • On-the-job tasks. Functioning well on the job requires good core strength, whether you’re sitting at a computer all day or working at a more obviously physical job that involves lifting, reaching and twisting. Good core strength makes it possible to do these tasks pain free.
  • Household chores. Everything from vacuuming to hammering requires movements such as bending, twisting and reaching – all motions that involve your core.
  • Sports. A strong core gives you the power to undertake sports such as tennis, swimming, cycling and running; it also gives you the power and flexibility to enjoy “bed sport” or sexual activities.

If your core is weak, tight or unbalanced, it makes these activities much more challenging.

Signs of a Weak Core

If you’re wondering whether your core might need some attention, here are six indications that a course of strengthening exercises might be wise:

  • Poor posture. If you find it challenging to stand up straight or slump in your chair, your core might be too weak to keep you upright.
  • Bad balance. The muscles in your core are key to balance, so if you find yourself tipping or struggling to stay upright, it’s time for improvement.
  • Lower back pain. If you have aches or pains in your back after sitting or standing for a while, it may point to a weak core.
  • Shortness of breath. Your outer core muscles help to support your diaphragm, which controls your breathing. A weak core can cause you to slouch and make breathing tougher.
  • Lack of endurance while standing. If you feel pain in your appendages or lower back after being on your feet for a while, it may point to the need for a stronger core to support you.
  • Body weakness. Given that the core is the heart of your muscular system, if you feel weak all over your body, it may mean your core isn’t strong enough.

Building Up Your Core

Now that you understand how important your core is to overall health, it’s time to consider strengthening it. There are excellent benefits to be obtained from improving core strength:

  • Injury prevention
  • Pain reduction
  • Managing and reducing pain
  • Improved balance and stability
  • Ease in undertaking daily tasks.

Yoga is one of the best exercises you can do to improve overall core strength, as is Pilates; both regimens can be adjusted to suit your level of physical fitness and strength.

There are also some exercises that you can do at home to get started, Including:

  • Seated side bends require you to sit in a chair with your feet flat. Put one hand behind your head and reach the other toward the floor. Bend forward to touch the floor, tightening your oblique (side) muscles. Repeat on the other side.
  • Leg lifts require lying flat on the floor with your legs and feet relaxed. Lift one leg off the floor and contract your abdominal muscles, holding the lift for three counts. Repeat with the other leg.

These exercises will start you on the path to core stability. However, it is worth visiting a physiotherapist to obtain an evaluation of your core strength, get a program tailored to your level of fitness and learn to do exercises using proper form.