Heart health is complicated. There’s no simple trick or just one thing you can do to get your heart healthy and keep it that way. Lots of things help, like aerobic exercise, strength training, and a healthy, portion-controlled eating plan. But have you considered that keeping your core healthy can also help your heart?
Without your core, the pinnacle link of your body is broken. In fact, Harvard Health Publishing explains that we must “think of (the) core muscles as the sturdy central link in a chain connecting (the) upper and lower body.” The core is literally what connects the body and makes the body work so seamlessly in everyday functioning tasks.
Improving your core muscles helps your heart in a few different ways. Working your core can help you lose fat, which is helpful for heart health. Additionally, many other types of exercise rely on core strength, so you’ll have more effective workouts if your core is strong. Your core helps with balance, which keeps you from falling. Other muscles don’t function well without a strong core, so you are more likely to develop pain in the back, hips, and knees. So keeping your core strong can help you avoid injuries and pain which, in turn, will keep you exercising longer. Your heart will be happy about that!
By building the core, your arms and the legs will be able to give you the energy, balance, and stability that you need every single day in simple activities like tying your shoes, vacuuming your house, or bathing your children.
In addition to optimizing your everyday life by having a strong core, there are many negatives of not having one. By having a weakened core, it is easier to throw out one’s back, fall, or get tired from standing for too long.
If you want to start strengthening your core, here are three activities from Harvard Health Publishing that can help you:
Plank on table
Starting position: Stand facing a table or counter (or any other solid surface that will not move) with your feet shoulder-width apart.
Movement: Align your shoulders directly over your elbows, forearms on the table. You can stand on your feet or toes. Balance your body in a line like a plank. Pull your belly up and in as if you were pulling on tight jeans, keeping your upper-body weight on your forearms. Hold for 15 seconds. Rest for one to two minutes. Repeat. Over time, try to build up to a two-minute hold.
Opposite arm and leg raise
Starting position: Kneel on all fours with your hands and knees directly aligned under your shoulders and hips. Keep your head and spine neutral.
Movement: Extend your left leg off the floor behind you while reaching out in front of you with your right arm. Keeping your hips and shoulders squared, try to bring the extended leg and arm parallel to the floor. Hold. Return to the starting position, then repeat with your right leg and left arm. This is one rep. Try to do eight to 10 reps, which counts as one set. When you’re able, build up to two sets, with a 30- to 90-second rest in between.
Starting position: Kneel on all fours with your hands and knees directly aligned under your shoulders and hips. Keep your head and spine neutral—that is, don’t bend or arch your back or neck.
Movement: Exhale as you tighten your abdominal muscles by pulling them up toward your spine, keeping your spine neutral. Hold for five to 10 seconds. Release your abdominal muscles and return to the starting position. This is one rep. Try to do eight to 10 reps, which counts as one set. When you’re able, build up to two sets, with a 30- to 90-second rest in between.