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Core exercises offer a different type of strength training, and are at the heart of popular forms of exercise like yoga and Pilates. Your "core" consists of the muscles in your abdominals, back, and pelvis.
According to the Mayo Clinic, one benefit of strengthening your core muscles is that it becomes easier to do other physical activities. However, you should always consult your doctor before doing core exercises if you have health concerns such as back trouble or osteoporosis.
Try these simple core exercises on a carpet or mat, and remember to breathe deeply as you do them. Repeat each exercise four to five times for best results. Working out at home? Invite your kids or other family members to try these with you. We'll end the session with a gentle stretch to help you unwind.
Classic Low Plank
This classic exercise is one of the best ways to strengthen your core. Come to the floor on your hands and knees. Then lower your forearms to the ground, clasping your hands together, and keeping your elbows apart, lined up beneath your shoulders. Your forearms will be in the shape of an upside-down "V" with your hands forming the point. Now, use your elbows and forearms to support part of your weight, extending one leg, and then the other, to balance on your toes. Your goal is to keep your body in a straight line, like a plank. Tighten your ab muscles to ensure your tummy isn't sagging, and make sure you aren't sticking your buttocks in the air. Hold this pose for 20 seconds, come down for a rest, and then repeat it.
The Mayo Clinic recommends the bridge exercise to help strengthen several core muscles together. Begin by lying on the floor, and bend your knees, keeping your feet flat on the floor. Your back should not be arched--keep it neutral and avoid pressing it into the floor. From this position, tighten your abs. Elevate your hips until they are in alignment with your knees and shoulders. Hold this pose for 15 seconds before lowering your body back down to the floor, and repeating.
To release the work of your core stretches, end the routine with a gentle chest stretch. From a seated position, put both hands behind your head, with fingers just touching. Move your elbows back as far as you can comfortably, pressing your shoulder blades together. Hold this position for 15 seconds, and then release the stretch before repeating it.
HealthAhead Heart Hint
Strengthening your core muscles may help you to do other exercises more comfortably and efficiently. Over time, this may make exercise more enjoyable for you. As exercise becomes easier, and you realize that your body is becoming stronger, working out may not seem like a chore. Instead, you may be able to appreciate the progress you have made, and enjoy some of the health benefits that follow.
Healthy Heart Reminder: Your family can be a big source of support. Did you invite them to try these exercises with you? If yes, then great work! If not, consider inviting them to go on a walk with you tomorrow.