Wellness & Education

What are your core muscles and why do they matter?

References to “core muscles” are popping up everywhere in fitness articles and among exercise gurus. But what are core muscles and why do they matter?

Your core muscles include the muscles in your lower back, your abdomen, your sides and your pelvis. These are basically the muscles around your trunk.

Core muscles are where most movement starts. Whether our core is holding us erect as we walk down the street or helping us bend over to put gas in the car, we use our core muscles in almost everything we do. This is the primary reason that core muscles matter.

Strengthening our core doesn’t only help us move, it also helps us prevent injury. When our core is strong, we are less likely to strain it. This is particularly important for preventing back pain, which afflicts four out of five people at some point in their lives.

Having a strong core also helps us keep our balance. Keeping our balance is a key part of fall prevention, particularly as we age. A strong core gives us more stability.

Given its role in movement, it’s not surprising that having a strong core helps us remain independent as we age. Self-care requires constant movement: twisting around to wash in the shower, walking around the grocery store to buy our food, bending down to pick up the dirty laundry or make the bed, reaching up to a cabinet to grab a drinking glass, etc.

Taking care of your core strength, particularly as you age, isn’t easy. If this is something you’ve neglected, it can’t be regained overnight. Start slow and take it easy. Yoga and water exercises are both great low-impact ways to get back into strengthening your core. Classes or access to a pool aren’t the only way to go however. Online and/or video resources also offer exercise demonstrations you can follow. Just be sure to pick a reputable source with exercises designed for your age and fitness level. If you have chronic health conditions, check with your healthcare provider before starting a new exercise regimen.