Required for every movement of the torso, the core has been the focus of recent research that verifies its importance in such pertinent issues as balance, body weight distribution, avoiding falls, and psychological health.
So this weekend, we’re going to focus on these central muscles (and to a lesser extent, the muscles of the upper legs) and delve into some fascinating studies that reveal multiple benefits of a strong core.
You’ll discover how and why strengthening these muscles is directly related to avoiding fractures and even alleviating fear and depression – all important aspects of bone health.
So let’s get started!
The core muscles include the deep muscles of the torso and hips, such as the pelvic floor muscles, transverse and rectus abdominis, erector spinae, obliques, psoas, and diaphragm. These are all deep muscles, so they connect directly to the vertebrae of the mid and lower back, lower ribs, and pelvis. Thus, core-targeting exercise stimulates growth and strength in these bones.
But that is definitely not all. As research reveals, there are a myriad of reasons to strengthen your core.
The Manifold Benefits Of A Strong Core
A study published in the journal Sports Medicine took a closer look at the use of core-strengthening training (CST) in mitigating some of the most common health concerns associated with aging: decreased muscle strength, balance, motor skills, and bone loss. The scientists explored the data on this topic from 1972 to 2013, and after reviewing almost 600 scientific articles (with a focus on 20 studies of particular interest), they concluded that:
“Core strength training…can be used as an adjunct or even alternative to traditional balance and/or resistance training programs for old adults.”
In addition, they pointed out that CST is:
“… easy to administer in a group setting or in individual fall preventive or rehabilitative intervention programs because little equipment and space is needed to perform such exercises.”1
This touches on another reason why core exercises are so easy to include in the Save Institute’s bone-building workout system: we are committed to recommending exercises that do not require expensive machines or equipment, and that can be practiced just about anywhere.
Core Strength Increases Mobility And Eases Fear And Depression
In this analysis, researchers set out to “investigate the effects of core stability exercise (CSE) on the physical and psychological functions of elderly women while negotiating general obstacles.”2
As they embarked on their review, the scientists took note of the challenges faced by the elderly, particularly falls resulting in injury (such as fractures), loss of muscle strength and proprioceptive sense (the perception of where your body is in space), and compromised coordination. Elderly people are vulnerable to tripping over commonly-encountered objects such as door sills and roadside curbs because of these and other factors.
This tendency results in fear, anxiety, and depression over loss of independence and the constant anxiety about falling. These feelings are increased if the individual has already experienced a fall.
So the study participants, aged 65 or older, were divided randomly into two groups: one that engaged in CSE for 30 minutes, three alternate days a week, and another group that did not engage in CSE.
The CSE group “showed statistically significant overall changes after the training session”2 including increased mobility, heel lifting, and knee flexion. The participants “could negotiate obstacles precisely and easily, had higher self-esteem and had less fear of falling and depression.”2
In conclusion, the study authors noted that:
“CSE can have a positive effect on the improvement of physical and psychological performances of older women who are vulnerable to falls as they negotiate everyday obstacles.”2
Another Study Shows Core Exercise Improves Weight Distribution And Stability
Weight distribution refers to where you carry weight on your body, which matters when it comes to your health and your bone strength. The participants in this third study averaged 75 years, both the core-training group and the control group. The control group was asked to perform standard strength training that did not focus on the core. The core-training group did core-strengthening exercises five days a week for 30 minutes at a time.
After eight weeks, the scientists observed positive changes in the core-training group, leading them to conclude that:
“Core muscle stability training should be considered as a therapeutic method for the elderly to improve their WDI [weight distribution index], and SI [stability index], and as a fall prevention measure.”3
It’s clear that core strength improves health and quality of life, so let’s move on to the Targeted Core Strengthener!
An exercise mat is a good idea for this move.
- Lie on your back with your head 4-10 inches off the ground. Bring your arms up over your head. Clasp your hands together and hold them up off the floor. Your hands will stay in this position throughout the exercise.
- Hold your feet up off the floor as well, and spread your feet apart.
- Now bring your feet back together, but bring one leg over the other like scissors.
- Bring your feet apart again, and when you pull them together, bring the opposite leg over the other (if you crossed your right leg over your left in step #3, for example, then cross your left over your right this time).
- Repeat steps 3 and 4 eight to 10 times, or as many as you are comfortable doing.
You’ll probably find, as I did, that your quads (the muscles at the top of your thigh) get a good workout with this exercise, too.
To make this exercise easier at first, place your hands on the floor at your sides. If that is still too difficult, you can try propping yourself up on your elbows to get the hang of the leg motions.
If you are unable to get up and down off the floor (or you’d like to round out your core workout), here are a couple of other exercises that also work the core but are done while sitting and standing, respectively:
Strengthen Your Core With Regular Strength Training
Given all the ways that core exercises can build your bones and improve your health, it makes sense to incorporate core strength training into your regular exercise routine. That’s easy with the Densercise™ Epidensity Training System, which includes plenty of exercises for these crucial muscles of the torso and hips.
Densercise™ is practiced three days a week for 15 minutes a session, and the moves can be done even in small spaces, making it very accessible to a wide range of individuals. Of course, if you want to increase the frequency or intensity of exercise, you can perform the “Densercises” more often, increase the number of reps, add weights, or include Weekend Challenges in your routine.
If you aren’t sure of some of the moves as described in the manual, Densercise™ includes online demonstration videos to clarify the exact motions for each exercise.
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I can’t wait to hear how core strength training is helping you! Please feel free to leave a comment below to share your experience or discuss other topics in today’s post.
Enjoy the weekend!
1 Granacher, U., et al. “The importance of trunk muscle strength for balance, functional performance, and fall prevention in seniors: a systematic review.” Sports Med. 43. 7. (2013): 627-41. Web. March 29, 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23568373
1 Dae-Sik, Ko, PT, PhD; Dae-In, Jung, PT, PhD; and Mi-Ae, Jeong. “Analysis of Core Stability Exercise Effect on the Physical and Psychological Function of Elderly Women Vulnerable to Falls during Obstacle Negotiation.” J Phys Ther Sci. 26. 11. (2014): 1697-1700. Web. March 29, 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4242935/
1 Kwon-Young Kang, PhD, PT. “Effects of core muscle stability training on the weight distribution and stability of the elderly.” J Phys Ther Sci. 27. 10. (2015): 3163-3165. Web. March 29, 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4668157/