Core strength, flexibility, and posture are vital in maintaining balance and stability in our daily activities and it is ultimately essential for avoiding injury.
As we enter the senior years, although some of you reading this aren’t anywhere near being a senior, it is still essential to understand the significance of how one’s fitness level can affect your health and well-being.
Injuries and other factors can interfere with daily living causing one to lose their core strength see a decline in posture, balance, and flexibility. However, if your core is strong, you have good flexibility and posture, you’ll keep some of it in times like what I went through.
For example, when I developed cancer in my right knee, I couldn’t push off the ground to mount my horse, let alone climb into bed. And when I finally got back to riding, it was difficult to mount as I had lost much of my core strength during the initial knee injury, diagnosis, and treatment. Yet, as a long-time fitness professional, I persisted and was soon riding again, balancing on one foot, etc.
What is the Core?
Many believe the core only to be stomach muscles. That isn’t the case.
The core body includes the stomach muscles (transversus, rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques), pelvic floor muscles, multifidus, the erector spinae, hip muscles (adductors, abductors, glutes, etc.), and the diaphragm. With proper core functioning, a person can better maintain good posture and balance and rotate the torso with ease.
Balance for Every Body
In addition, maintaining a strong and supple core is beneficial to your overall health.
Muscles and Their Functions —
The back extensors (multifidus and erector spinae) extend the spinal column and help you to sit tall. If the lower back (lumbar spine) is hyperextended, there is too much curve to the lower spine. However, if you overly slouch, you are excessively flexing the spine. This is where the abdominals play a significant role.
The transversus abdominus (the deepest layer of abs) needs to be strong enough to support the low back and help take out the excessive curvature, which is referred to as an anterior pelvic tilt (think of the pelvis as a bucket filled with water spilling to the front of your body; when slouching, the bucket is tipping backward, and water is spilling to the back).
The oblique muscles that lay on top of the transversus are used when rotating the torso and help us maintain the ability to do simple chores like looking out the car’s side window. Their function is rotation, lateral flexion (a side bend), and assisting with flexion of the spine (bending forward). It is essential to find a neutral position of the pelvis for comfort and safety because excessive force is exerted on the lower back muscles and vertebra if slouched or hyperextended while rotating the torso.
The top layer of the abs is the rectus abdominus, also important the core; its function is forward flexion of the spine (bending forward). However, when slouched at the upper back, undue stress is placed on the internal organs and thoracic spine (upper to mid-back), so it is essential to maintain a good upper back posture.
The hips play a crucial role in sitting comfortably and without pain. The hip flexors (front of hip) attach to the five lumbar vertebrae in the lower back. If these muscles are overly tight, they pull on the low back creating stiffness and reducing the spine’s flexibility.
The Bottom Line —
If the core is weak and you lack flexibility or good posture, the potential for injury increases and can even set you up for postural issues.
I hope this short article has provided some incentive to spend some time on your overall fitness.
If you’re uncertain what exercises you can do, you can download the PDF I created for Mounting Your Horse with Ease. See the form below!
Although the PDF is geared towards horseback riders, the exercises will work just as well for you as they will for someone wanting to mount their horse, as each exercise is specific for improving core strength, flexibility, and posture for horseback riders. With consistency, you’ll maintain joint health, core strength and flexibility, and the stamina needed to enjoy daily activities for many years to come.
In Love and Health,