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What Does It Mean To Keep Your Core Strong?

Functional Movement.

As with everything in life, core strength requires maintenance. For example, you wouldn’t expect to clean the house only once in your lifetime. Over time, the dirt would build-up, and eventually your lovely clean home would become a cesspit of dead skin cells, crumbs, crisps, and possibly garden debris! This is the same with core strength; it will deteriorate if not maintained. And while it won’t attract unfriendly rodents like a grimy house will, a weak core can result in unnecessary pain, injury, and dysfunctional movement patterns. We don’t know about you, but dysfunctional movement is the last thing we need at this point in our lives!


a middle aged woman doing a core strength exercise on a mat..
Many of our daily activities require good core strength.
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A Strong Core and it's Impact on Health

By now, you will have realized that having a weak core can hugely impact your health. And while you may have guessed that the elixir of life lies in having a strong core, the secret-ninja-style ingredient is in maintaining that core strength. Maintaining core strength is not reliant on exercise alone. The truth is that core strength also requires certain lifestyle adjustments. These adjustments can help to enhance and complement the activities we have recommended.


But don’t worry; when we talk about lifestyle adjustments, we don’t mean that you suddenly need to go vegan, buy a treadmill, or book a hard-core health retreat. That’s just going a little too far, in our opinion! However, those adjustments would be great fun and possibly provide endless topics of conversation for your weekly dinner parties, just saying. But back to the business of keeping our core strength full of vitality and strength. Your core strength can be enhanced and maintained quite easily by incorporating slight tweaks to the everyday grind that comes with daily living. Use the guidelines below to help you keep your core in top condition.


Physical Lifestyle Adjustments

Many of our daily activities or chores require good core strength to complete them safely and effectively. However, these very activities can also be used to strengthen our core muscles. The more you use your core, the stronger it will become. Here is where the phrase ‘couch-potato’ has a real element of truth – because being immobile leads to in-flexibility and a weak core. Have you seen any flexible potatoes recently?


Climbing the stairs

Our busy lifestyles mean that we often look for shortcuts when trying to reach appointments or destinations on time. Hence the temptation to use the elevator or the escalator rather than taking the stairs. However, taking the stairs is hugely beneficial to our core muscles as it activates the glutes, calves, quads, and hamstrings. As a result, our legs become stronger and more flexible, while our balance is improved. In fact, stair climbing has the same effect as doing squats or lunges – a good lunge or squat posture engages your core and abdominal muscles helping you achieve a more robust and stable core.

So next time you are out and about – take the stairs and work that core! When climbing the stairs, maintain a good posture by keeping your shoulders relaxed (no hunching), spine neutral, hips even, and abdominal muscles engaged.


Carrying groceries

Grocery shopping can be quite a drag; all that carrying and packing away required to re-fill the yummy snack cupboard can leave you feeling rather tired! This is why so many people opt to shop online and have their food delivered directly to their door. The only problem with all that convenience is that the inactivity directly affects our core strength. This simple chore of carrying the groceries is a super beneficial way of tweaking our core strength.


Besides activating the biceps, triceps, deltoids, and trapezius in the arms, many upper body muscles are also used when lifting or carrying. For example, the abs, chest muscles, back muscles, glutes, thighs, and calves are all used to balance, lift and take the strain when lifting or carrying your groceries or any weight for that matter. Who would have thought that simply collecting your vegetables from the store could work your core muscles to such an extent! When carrying your groceries from the store, ensure the bags are evenly packed so that both arms lift approximately the same weight. This will prevent you from straining your back and arms or twisting your spine. Don’t carry bags that are too heavy for you to lift safely.


Gardening

Gardening isn’t for everyone, and no one is expecting you to produce the next prize-winning rose or the world’s largest pumpkin to achieve healthy core strength. However, the many actions involved with gardening, such as raking leaves, shoveling snow, digging holes for plants, and even the tedious task of weeding, can all contribute positively to a strong core as they engage multiple muscle groups.


Raking, in particular, is excellent for building core strength as it engages muscles in both the upper and lower body. These include muscles in the arms, chest, shoulders, upper and lower back, and legs. In fact, most muscles in the body are used to perform the raking motion required to collect all those pesky autumn leaves! When raking, the core works to stabilize your body as you move your arms and upper body. Furthermore, raking is considered on a par with moderate exercise, similar to a brisk walk.


So, the next time your neighbour’s tree sheds all its leaves in your yard, use it as the perfect excuse to work on strengthening your core! It’s essential to maintain a good raking posture to ensure a good core workout. Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart, forming a wide base, and hold the rake comfortably. Then, with your back straight and spine neutral, perform the raking motion, ensuring you don’t twist your spine by swinging farther than your feet allow.


Household Chores

Core strength and exercise are not what springs to mind when doing the weekly round of household chores. However, you are using a whole host of core muscles, whether you are dusting, mopping, vacuuming, or picking up the debris from last night’s wine and cheese party! Some of the muscles used when wearing your marigolds include the abdominals (stomach), trapezius (shoulders), and obliques (sides).


When sprucing up your home, you should ensure you keep your core engaged at all times. And when bending or stretching to clean hard-to-reach places, keep your back flat and avoid hunching your shoulders. In addition, simple tricks such as increasing your pace as you work, stretching up as far as you can to clean windows, or squatting and holding the squat for 15 seconds when picking up items from off the floor can all increase core strength and flexibility. When doing your housework, each movement should be smooth and controlled. Tighten your abdominal muscles and keep your back straight when bending or reaching. Aside from strengthening your core muscles, a good cleaning session can help you burn up some major calories!


Walking

We aren’t talking about taking a leisurely stroll around the park; we are talking about a brisk, no-nonsense, core engaged power stomp around the neighborhood. This type of walking is when your legs are not left to do all the work while the rest of your body toddles along for the ride! Start by tightening the core muscles in your stomach as much as you can. Hold them tightly as you walk, flex them and then release them. Do this at regular intervals as you walk. Follow a pattern of flex, hold, stop, then flex, hold, stop.


Alternatively, you could use the power-walk core flex, which involves maintaining a good posture then flexing your core muscles with each arm swing. You should feel the burn in your abdominal muscles. Walking to and from the supermarket rather than taking the car is excellent for core strength, especially if it involves carrying the groceries home again! However, walking won’t strengthen your core muscles unless you maintain a good posture and ensure the muscles in your core area are activated.


Walking Uphill

While walking can help increase core strength, walking uphill can further enhance core strength and endurance. This is because the body needs to work harder when walking up a hill. As a result, your heart rate increases, and your core, glutes, and leg muscles become more robust. Keep your abs tight and flex your core as you move when walking uphill.


Walking uphill also helps burn fat and calories but is kinder to our aging joints than the impact experienced with a high-intensity workout. Therefore, it is an excellent form of core strengthening, fat-diminishing exercise which is easily incorporated into our daily constitutional! Who needs the gym when you have a nearby hill at hand? Maintaining a good posture and consciously engaging our core muscles when doing physical activities or chores strengthens and maintains core strength even when we are not exercising.


a woman on an exercise mat doing a core exercise
The more you use your core, the stronger it will become!

Food Adjustments

It may seem unbelievable that munching on nutritious foods can help tighten and build healthy core muscles. However, this is entirely true; eating healthily is essential for building a robust core! Unfortunately, devouring large portions of cake and cookies while very tasty, do a lot of damage when trying to maintain core strength. Take a look at the top foods we recommend incorporating into your diet to build a veritable powerhouse of core muscle!


Eggs

Eggs have the perfect balance of amino acids. In addition, their healthy combination of proteins and fats helps keep hunger pangs at bay throughout the day, preventing unhealthy forages into the snack cupboard! This alone will keep your core in good shape because you won’t feel the temptation to eat foods high in fats or sugars.


Almonds

Almonds are packed with protein, vitamin E, fiber, and magnesium, essential for healthy muscle tissue. One ounce of almonds per day provides the body with energy and helps to regulate blood sugars. However, their main superpower is their ability to block calories and keep the core lean and strong. *Please note that if you suffer from nut allergies, this core-boosting food is off the menu!


Green vegetables

The high fiber and carotenoid content of leafy greens keep the waistline slim and help to boost the immune system. In addition, green vegetables such as broccoli and spinach contain large amounts of calcium that can strengthen muscles and enhance stamina when completing a challenging core workout session.


Yogurt

Yogurt is rich in calcium and contains probiotic bacteria that help maintain a healthy digestive system. In addition, a healthy digestive system does not often struggle with core-weakening incidents of gas, bloating, or constipation. In other words, the healthier your gut is, the stronger your core will be! Adding these foods to your diet will provide your core with the essential building blocks required for vigorous and robust core strength.


A Good Night’s Sleep is Essential

Sleep is an essential component of maintaining core strength. When the body is sleep-deprived, it struggles to perform efficiently when exercising and completing daily tasks.

We all know how it feels to struggle through the day feeling tired and physically unable to complete activities. This becomes even more apparent as we get older, making striking a good balance between sleep, good nutrition, and exercise for good core strength even more imperative. An imbalance in any one area usually directly impacts the other areas. For example, when the body is severely sleep-deprived, it can result in obesity, diabetes, and heart disease – all of which are not conducive to good core strength.


On the other hand, sleep also encourages tissue repair and preserves energy, all of which are needed when living an active life supported by a strong core. Therefore, you should aim to get between seven and eight hours of sleep each night.


The Importance of Hydration

For good core strength, you need to remain hydrated. This means you should be drinking 1-2 liters of water or fluids throughout the day if you are inactive and more if you are working out or doing physical activity. Unfortunately, when the body becomes dehydrated, it can cause nasty side effects. These include poor concentration or neurological coordination (confusion), muscle cramps, fatigue, decreased core strength, and headaches.


Keeping hydrated when working out can improve performance levels, reduce fluid retention, aid with weight loss and enhance muscle building (core strength). In addition, water helps transport necessary nutrients to the cells and removes waste products from the body.


A Final Note on Core Maintenance

As you can see, several factors influence our core strength. When the body has sufficient exercise (physical activity), nutrition, sleep, and hydration, it functions at optimum levels. And it’s at this point that maintaining core strength becomes attainable.


It goes without saying that if you put the wrong fuel into your car, forget to change the oil, or neglect to maintain it properly; it will soon break down! So why do we humans expect our bodies to react any differently? After all, our bodies are complex machines requiring a certain amount of basic care to function on some level of normality.


Furthermore, without this basic care or maintenance, we can expect our core strength to gradually weaken and become unstable as our body loses the flexibility we took for granted in our youth!


So, we say, kick start your maintenance plan today, don’t wait another minute to pump up your core performance because there’s no way you should accept getting older without a hard-core fight!


It's never too late to embark on a journey toward a healthier, more vibrant you, especially when you feel the effects of neglecting self-care for years. Rediscover the path to physical well-being. 
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