Core Fitness – What Is It and What Is It Good For?

By Jon Wise D.C.

Core training once used to be a term that some doctors recommended for the last 30-40 years. It is a no-longer-new catchphrase on the society. The concept of core fitness has been promoted by every Pilates school, yoga center, and chains of fitness clubs, like 24 hour fitness, around the world for as long as I can remember. Many doctors, including chiropractors, physiatrists, orthopedists and cardiologists, emphasize the importance of core training with their patients. Practically every physical therapist and personal trainer has learned and is certified in teaching a variety of core exercises to use with their clients. Core fitness has become an advertising buzzword, helping to sell all kinds of health-related products, but be careful not to get sucked into the traps of purchasing everything on the market. The overall result is raised awareness of the importance of core strength and the opportunity to engage in a critically important form of healthy exercise.1,2,3

What exactly is the “core,” and what are you training when you train it? Your core muscles are your four abdominal muscle groups – the transversus abdominis, internal obliques, external obliques, and rectus abdominis. Back muscles, too, are included in the core group – specifically the erector spinae, longissimus thoracis, and multifidus. These groups of muscles are used to help support your spinal system. The importance of the core muscles is their ability to provide a “center” or focus for the physical work your body is doing. If your core is not fit, other muscles will have to take over, leading to the likelihood of strains, sprains and other injuries.

Who even knew we had a core? Plenty of people did, long ago, but in those days, no one talked about a “core.” They mainly talked about just strengthening the whole body. For many decades, football coaches, ballet instructors, and gymnastics coaches trained their athletes in vigorous and strenuous techniques that all focused on core strength. High school gym teachers knew about the core. Remember squat thrusts, jumping jacks, and push-ups? Football players, how about the lunges, the 3 legged dogs and all those circuit training programs? All those ancient exercises (that we used to groan and moan about) train and work out the deep core muscles. We were doing core fitness before there was “core fitness.”

Why do we need core fitness today? More and more, our work involves sitting down. We stare at computer screens for eight hours a day. Instead of doing physical work such as farming or building, we type on a keyboard and talk on a cell phone. The long-term result is that muscles, tendons, and ligaments lost their integrity. Tight neck muscles, tight lower back muscles, and weak abdominal muscles are the result, and these issues lead to more serious problems such as chronic headaches, cardiovascular stress, impaired digestion and depression. Eighty percent of the American workforce has a diagnosed chronic disease. We need fitness activities that start building us back up again. To start improving our postures and the right place to start is at the center, core fitness is just one of the things that can help us succeed and achieve optimal fitness.

The best thing about core fitness is that you don’t need any equipment. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on things you will use a few times then conveniently store in your closet to never been seen by daylight again. You could get a mat and a physioball ($20 at places like Wal-Mart), but those items are optional. Take a yoga class. Take a Pilates class. Look online and try Cross Fit. Learn a few core exercises and begin to do them several times a week. You’ll soon begin to notice that you feel better in general. You have more energy. You’re sleeping better. Your mood is improving. All due to a few squats, a few planks and a few push-ups. That’s a pretty great deal.

1Kennedy DJ, Noh MY: The role of core stabilization in lumbosacral radicuopathy. Phys Med Rehabil Clin North Am 22(1):91-103, 2011
2Behm DG, et al: The use of instability to train the core musculature. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab 35(1):91-108, 2010
3Dunleavy K: Pilates fitness continuum: post-rehabilitation and prevention Pilates fitness programs. Rehab Manag 23(9):12-15, 2010

To learn more about Dr. Jon Wise, visit www.wisechiropractor.com. Dr. Wises a Holistic Family Chiropractor who dedicates his life to helping the members of his community work towards obtaining optimal health and wellness. He has treated individuals of all ages from infants to geriatrics. His concepts of Eat Wise – Move Wise – Think Wise can revolutionize the way you view your health.

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