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Harvard Health Blog
Understanding and improving core strength
- By Lauren Elson, MD, Contributor
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
I have spinal stenosis and am 86. I feel I need to take up core exercises so I can strengthen my back and legs. I have to walk with a cane and walker.
Will have to look up front and side planks. Up to this point I only know of plank. Thanks for your comment Robert Goldfarb.
Half hearted write-up. Where are the ways or exercises to strengthen up core? Planks or any activity which challenges lambo-pelvic-hip complex does wonder for core.
I am impressed by the article about body core. Great information. I learned the major importance of my body core after being severely affected by acute Guillain Barre Syndrome many years ago. In all the many therapy sessions I’ve experienced over the years, I had the most success in healing and strengthening of my core from Pilates in a studio using a therapy table and Pilates sliding and circular motion machines, and also physical therapy in a pool. Not to say that general physical and occupational therapies weren’t useful; they were. Unfortunately it is not uncommon to sometimes find therapists believing that the process of “no pain, no gain” applies to persons whose nerve and muscle functions are compromised by acute GBS or chronic CIDP (both are peripheral neuropathies). In these cases the person is best served by rest when the pain threshold is reached during therapy session. I didn’t know this fact early after my lengthy hospitalization, and I allowed a physical therapist to take me way past my pain threshold. I am fortunate I did not get injured, and the only benefit I gained after screaming and crying for about 15 minutes during each session, was a strong natural dose of endorphins produced by my body, which made me feel like superman for a few hours, but the therapy itself produced no forward movement in the goal set for my compromised physical condition. Always refer to “best practice guidance documents” such as the one my occupational therapist showed me after finding out about my physical therapy “torture” sessions. In that document it stated that this type of patient should not be taken past their pain threshold. Also, there is a non-profit Foundation that provides peer-reviewed downloadable guidance documents related to therapy for GBS and CIDP persons. In summary, core conditioning is always extremely important.
I first became aware of core and core fitness when I began training in Aikido, a Japanese martial art. Our core was referred to as our center or our one point. The idea was that our energy was derived from and developed through increased awareness of our core and a focus on this area when executing a technique. Aikido does not rely on muscle strength but primarily on core strength. Core is much more powerful than muscle as I learned from our 6th degree instructor! Thanks for this helpful and informative article.
I was diagnosed with arthritis last year. My physician told me that the only way to combat pain was not medication but exercise. She then recommended that I should start walking in order to reinforce musculature. I started walking and at the same time I started making yoga. One year after I can say that pain is almost gone.
Good explanation. Thanks!
I’m 88 and want to avoid the slumping posture I see in many people my age. I’ve found a combination of front and side planks, yoga, balance exercises and—importantly—self-admonitions to “Stand up straight!’ have been very effective. Being mindful of posture and balance is as important as the physical effort.
The 6-pack abdominal muscles are repulsive. Being an aesthete across the disciplines, I am affronted by those creepy lumps sticking out like dinner rolls from suburb City. Keep the shirts ON!
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