If you think core exercises are only for fitness fanatics, think again. These simple activities will strengthen your body.

Yoga Illustration
Credit: R. Nichols

It's time to wake up your workout. Make good health the center of attention by focusing on your core muscles, and you'll be surprised by the results. Most professionals agree that every movement, from lifting the TV remote to serving a tennis ball, originates in this area around your torso and hips. Strengthening these spine-supporting muscles is not only important, but it's also a fun way to add a spark to your fitness routine.

Interior Motives
The core of muscles around your abdomen, waist, and spine initiates the movement of limbs. It aligns your spine and pelvis for maximum strength and comfort, all before you raise an arm, turn your neck, or take a step.

A strong torso works overtime, increasing balance, improving posture, and helping to prevent neck and back injuries. A weak core will accomplish the same actions with minimal efficiency and poor posture.

The benefits stretch further than the gym: A strong core has effects in other areas as well. Lifting groceries, children, or other heavy objects is less likely to result in injury when strong trunk muscles are in control.

Advantages for All Ages
Improved posture, another by-product of a strong core, does wonders for both your stability and your appearance.

"It's a great anti-aging strategy," says Connie Tyne, executive director of Cooper Wellness Program in Dallas. "A 70-year-old with good posture can look younger than a 55-year-old with bad posture."

While it may seem obvious to focus attention on this incredibly important part of the body, Connie says that during the last decade, much exercising energy was spent striving for exterior results.

"We want to shift people from thinking they have to be able to see results for them to be real," explains Connie. Core strength training is no fading fitness fad, so try incorporating the exercises into your lifestyle. Your whole body will thank you.

Getting to the Core
It's simple: A strong core equals overall health. What's not so simple is finding a comfortable workout that fits in your schedule. Here are some suggestions from our expert.

  • The Free Spirit: Yoga is a great core exercise. The stretching and strengthening counteracts muscular stiffness, improves circulation, and massages the inner organs. A bonus: Meditation, a focus of yoga, soothes your mind as well as your body.
  • The Hard Core: Pilates has been proven in studies to be one of the best ways to increase balance and tone muscles. A good Pilates regimen will feature movements that initiate in the body's core and stretch the limbs. Check with a gym or trainer near you for classes.
  • The Do-It-Yourselfer: When you have neither the time nor desire to go to the gym, an at-home session can be just as effective. You can use weights, balls, and other tools, but all you really need is an instructional book or video, a flat surface, and a sense of adventure. Connie suggests any book by Miriam Nelson, such as Strong Women, Strong Backs.