Five Foundational Habits for Health: Benefits of Core Strengthening
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More and more people have been searching for a healthier, more vibrant life. During this search, we often focus on a variety of fitness goals, from building endurance to sculpting strong muscles. However, one sometimes overlooked but extremely important aspect is core strengthening. 

Your core is not just about aesthetics; it’s the powerhouse and foundation of your body, playing a vital role in your overall well-being. Below are some of the main benefits of core strengthening exercises and why everybody should make them a part of their fitness routine.

  1. Improved Posture: Building a strong core helps stabilize your spine and supports your upper body. By strengthening your abdominal and back muscles, you can maintain a more natural and aligned posture. Good posture also looks more confident and powerful. Think of how you feel with a wide, grounded stance versus a narrow stance.
  2. Enhanced Balance and Stability: Balancing on one leg, walking on uneven terrain or navigating daily life with littles all require balance. A strong core provides grounding and acts as the body’s stabilizer, helping you maintain balance and preventing falls or injuries.
  3. Reduced Back Pain: Back pain is one of the most common complaints, and it’s often a result of weak core muscles. Addressing the deep core muscle provides internal support for your spine and reduces the load on your lower back. It’s like wearing a natural back brace that’s always with you.
  4. Increased Functional Strength: Everyday activities like lifting groceries, carrying children or even picking up a heavy suitcase become easier when you have a strong core. Awakening your core can help prevent injury from repetitive daily activities and keep you going right along with your kids. 
  5. Enhanced Breathing: Engaging core muscles allow for better diaphragm function, which in turn improves your breathing. This can lead to increased lung capacity, better oxygen circulation and improved endurance during workouts. Breathing more effectively also promotes relaxation and reduces stress.

Here are three exercises you can do daily to engage your core and improve spinal stability:   

Transverse Abdominis on Hands and Knees
On your hands and knees, find a neutral spine position–not too far extended or flexed. Once in neutral, inhale, then exhale and gently pull your belly button in toward your spine, without moving your spine. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat 5 times. 

 

Clamshell
Lying on your side with hips and knees bent, pull your belly button in, lift your top knee toward the ceiling/sky. Hold for 5-10 seconds and repeat 10x. Be sure not to rotate through your spine. 

 

Side-Lying Leg Lift
Lying on your side with bottom hip/knee bent, pull your belly button in, keep your top leg straight and lift it toward the ceiling/sky. Be sure to keep your leg in alignment with your hips/shoulders and don’t rotate your back. Repeat 10x on each leg. 

While strength is important, I’ve found with many of my clients, awareness is key. Improved awareness leads to increased activation, which leads to more stability, grounding and long-term ability. 

Next month, we will dive into hormones and exercise! 

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About Author

Dr. Crystal Whitmarsh is the owner of Whitmarsh Health and Wellness, LLC, and co-owner of Trail Creek Coffee Roasters in Kasson, Minnesota. She is a board-certified physical therapist. She was raised by a single mother in upper Michigan where she played college basketball for 4 years at Finlandia University. During that time, she found a love of serving her community which developed her servant leadership philosophy through outreach and volunteer work. After graduating in 2006 with her associate degree, she moved to Minnesota with her husband and began working as a physical therapist assistant. She continued her educational journey and completed her Bachelor’s in Exercise Science from Minnesota State University, Mankato in 2010 and in 2013 she obtained her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences. She is the first female in her family to attain a terminal degree. In addition to Dr. Whitmarsh’s academic accomplishments, and while working full time and serving in her community, she and her husband opened their coffee roasting business in their home under the Minnesota cottage food exemption in 2017. During this time, she focused on advertising and networking strategies, specifically trying to collaborate with non-profit or locally run businesses. She has been engaged in multiple business-related platforms including the Women’s Entrepreneur Forum, the Chamber of Commerce, Master Networks, and The Full Circle. In January of 2023, Dr. Whitmarsh launched Whitmarsh Health and Wellness, LLC, a private physical therapy practice. Her mission is to evaluate, elevate, and empower people who desire to improve their health by optimizing their brain and body through individualized physical therapy to provide lifelong wellness.

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