You have likely heard multiple sources from health professionals to yoga instructors, and even television commercials, tout the benefits of core strength. What you may not realize is how important the core is to your general health. In fact, recent studies have shown that benefits from core strengthening go far beyond the cosmetic results of a six-pack.
The core is a large group of muscles that include the abdominals, the gluteals, muscles around the spine, and the hip muscles. 29 total muscles make up the core, and they help to stabilize the spine and the pelvis, and they link the upper and lower body.
Core Strength Can Prevent Injury
Core strength is one of the most important aspects of overall health and fitness. Your core is responsible for supporting your spine and providing a stable foundation for all of your movements. When you have strong core muscles, you are less likely to suffer from back pain, and you will be able to perform everyday activities with greater ease.
Medical research has linked a weak core to an increased injury rate in competitive and recreational athletes. This is particularly true with certain injuries such as ACL tears but also applies to other injuries in a variety of sports from soccer to cycling. A recent systematic review found that decreased core strength, neuromuscular control, and core proprioception were associated with and increased risk of lower extremity injuries.
Better Core Strength Leads to Better Health
In addition to its role in preventing sports injuries, core strength also plays a role in overall health and illness. Researchers studying the size of certain core muscles on CT scan found that ICU patients with larger core muscles recovered more quickly and spent less time in the hospital. Core strengthening has also been shown to improve the health of developmentally delayed children, improve the quality of life of cancer patients, and improve symptoms in individuals suffering from chronic low back pain.
The good news is that it is never too late to start improving your core fitness, and we have come a long way from the days of doing simple sit-ups. A personal trainer, physical therapist, or even your sports medicine doctor can get you started with a good core-strengthening program that can improve your quality of life for years to come.
- Huxel Bliven KC, Anderson BE. Core stability training for injury prevention. Sports Health. 2013 Nov;5(6):514-22. doi: 10.1177/1941738113481200. PMID: 24427426; PMCID: PMC3806175.
- Akkoc I, Toptas M, Yalcin M, Demir E, Toptas Y. Psoas Muscle Area Measured with Computed Tomography at Admission to Intensive Care Unit: Prediction of In-Hospital Mortality in Patients with Pulmonary Embolism. Biomed Res Int. 2020 Mar 7;2020:1586707. doi: 10.1155/2020/1586707. PMID: 32219127; PMCID: PMC7081019.
- De Blaiser C, Roosen P, Willems T, Danneels L, Bossche LV, De Ridder R. Is core stability a risk factor for lower extremity injuries in an athletic population? A systematic review. Phys Ther Sport. 2018 Mar;30:48-56. doi: 10.1016/j.ptsp.2017.08.076. Epub 2017 Aug 24. PMID: 29246794.