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|Exercises specifically designed to strengthen your body's "core" have a remarkable range of benefits. Balance, strength, flexibility, and coordination are all improved by these essential exercises. The main muscle trained is the transversus abdominis, a wide band of muscle encircling the abdomen and lower back. This muscle has been called the body's built-in weight belt.
Core training and core strengthening provide the cornerstones on which all your fitness activities are based. Yet until about five years ago, core training was a well-kept secret known only to dances and gymnasts, who were totally unaware the routines they'd been doing all their lives were about to go mainstream.
Core muscles are just that - the core of your body. And like a nuclear core reactor, these muscles are the power plant that drives the activities of everything else your body is doing. Core muscles - when trained and strong - provide a firm platform, a solid internal foundation, from which all movements and action can flow gracefully and purposefully.
Three basic core exercises are torso twists (done lying on your back), the plank, and pelvic bridges.
Summertime is fun time - swimming, surfing, beach volleyball, beach barbecues, and lots of sunshine!1
We want to be sure to enjoy ourselves all summer long and not be slowed down by the speed-bumps of sunburn, muscle aches and pains, and back strain. There's plenty we can do for prevention and to make sure we continue to have fun for the whole summer and beyond!
Sunburn first. This is now a real problem for almost everyone. More harmful ultraviolet radiation is reaching the surface of the planet, and that means it's reaching us! When we were kids we could get away without putting on sunscreen. Now we really need protection - for kids as well as adults.
Everyone needs to use a sunscreen.2 These products are rated by the amount of sun protection factor they offer - the SPF. Generally, sunburn can be avoided by using a product with an SPF of 15. Infants and children should be protected with an SPF of 30. Babies younger than six months of age should be kept out of the sun.
Both sweat and water reduce SPF protection. So if you've been in the ocean or the pool or have worked up a sweat playing volleyball or Frisbee, reapply your sunscreen right away. If you're fair-skinned or have a receding hairline, wear a hat. Protecting your lips is important too - lip balms are available with an SPF of 30.
The right kind of sunglasses is important - not all sunglasses are created equally. For proper protection, choose sunglasses that offer ultraviolet (UV) protection - helping to avoid cataracts and other eye diseases. Protection should block 99% of UVB and 95% of UVA radiation.
Getting ready for exercise is next on our summer-fun agenda. Swimming, surfing, and volleyball all require a good amount of flexibility. It's a bad idea to jump in the ocean after having spent the last six months sitting on your couch playing "Grand Theft Auto" or "World of Warcraft". The first big wave may knock you over and sprain your back!
Getting ready is important. Begin by doing daily gentle stretches for your major leg muscles - the hamstrings, quads, and calves. Stretching these big muscle groups reflexively relaxes and lengthens the muscles of your lower back.
Also, start doing abdominal exercises - leg lifts for the lower abs and crunches for the middle and upper abs. Strong abdominal muscles translates into support for your lower back.
Learning how to do a set of core exercises is very valuable.3 These exercises specifically strengthen the inner wall of your abdominals and lower back, resulting in more strength, more flexibility, and better balance. The only equipment required is an exercise mat.
Your chiropractor will be glad to provide information, guidance, and recommendations for a range of exercises and stretches that will help keep you healthy all summer long and beyond!
1Holick MF: Sunlight, UV-radiation, vitamin D and skin cancer. How much sunlight do we need? Adv Exp Med Biol 624:1-15, 2008
2Moehrle M: Outdoor sports and skin cancer. Clin Dermatol 26(1):12-15, 2008
3Urquhart DM, et al: Abdominal muscle recruitment during a range of voluntary exercises. Man Ther 10(2):144-153, 2005