Workout Routine

These simple core exercises will help you live a longer, healthier and active life says Harvard research

Core exercises as advised by Harvard Health Medicine (Photo: Harvard Publishing)

Have you heard your personal trainer at the gym say “Engage the core, keep the core engaged”? What is the core and why does it matter?

According to ACEFitness, the American Council on Exercise, the musculoskeletal structure of the human body is designed in such a way that it operates most effectively when standing upright while reacting to the forces caused by gravity and ground reaction.

What is the core? That term refers to the center of gravity which, in most people, is just below the belly button. At the core are the sets of muscles and the bones that work in coordination, especially when we are up and about and the actual purpose of our core muscles is to work effectively and efficiently while the body is in an upright, vertical position.

Core exercises are very important to help you live longer and healthier lives. You may ask, why? The reason is that keeping the core supple and active helps improve your posture, makes everyday activities such as bending or twisting much easier, reduces low back pain, and even improves your balance, thus lessening your risk of falling as you age.

A basic workout plan as per Physical Activity Guidelines:

According to the US Department of Health as well as the National Health Portal of India, a balanced exercise plan includes:

1. At least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, 75 minutes of vigorous activity.

Or an equivalent combination of the two every week. Adults aged 18–64 years (and those without serious ailments aged beyond 64) should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity throughout the week, or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity throughout the week, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity. How to decide what is moderate and what is intense? Apply this logic. During moderate activity, such as a brisk walk, you can talk, but not sing; during vigorous activity, such as running, you can’t say more than a few words without catching your breath.

2. Strength-training sessions twice a week for all major muscle groups.

3. Balance exercises if you’re an older adult at risk for falling.

While point no. 1 of clocking certain hours of physical activity in a week is something you must ensure, it has no core-intensive works. The core workout falls under the second and third categories: strength training and enhancing balance.

Advanced core exercises tone more than just core muscles: for example, chair stands to strengthen muscles throughout your legs, while planks work some arm and back muscles as well as abdominal muscles.

Need inspiration? Meet 92-year-old Air Marshal PV Iyer (retd)

About two years ago, Param Iyer, the (now) CEO of Niti Aayog and a former Secretary to the Government of India shared a video of his father, (now) 92-year-old retired Air Marshal PV Iyer, demonstrating how age is not an impediment to a fitter you.

His powerful and easy-peasy pull-ups and a book the nonagenarian has published recently should inspire you.

Pregnant, postpartum women and persons with cardiac problems should seek medical advice before starting any physical activity on their own, though.

Harvard Tips on How to add core work

Core exercises are for all and you can start your routine in a gentle manner. You need not have a special time slot or equipment for core exercises. You can slip in some of these in between whenever you have a long gap between the last meal and the upcoming consumption of food or beverages plan.

1. Start slowly, and gradually challenge yourself.

If you are able to accomplish a core workout two to three times a week, you should reward yourself with a non-fattening gift and keep up the motivation. Start with basic exercises. When you can do a full set of reps easily, move on to a slightly more advanced set of exercises. Boredom can be demotivating and is likely to creep in if you are doing the same exercise for too long. Check out newer and varied core exercises to toggle like a music playlist and keep yourself inspired by the novelty.

2. Sprinkle in core work throughout your day.

Missed the gym session? PT did not turn out? That should not be an excuse to slump into the couch with a tub of popcorn for the rest of the day. As you go about your working day, look for opportunities to do short bursts of exercises or stretches a few times a day. You can do this daily, or start slowly with just a few days a week — say, every Monday and Thursday. You can add routines and additional days as you progress.

3. Add core workouts to strength-training sessions.

Remember, we spoke about recommendations of strength-training sessions twice a week for all major muscle groups and balance exercises if you’re an older adult at risk for falling? So, when you do your twice-weekly strength training sessions, just seamlessly add two extra core exercises to your routine. Build upon that and add as you go ahead week by week, month by month. When you have developed a good core routine segment in your daily exercises, step it up again by starting a separate core workout or sprinkling bursts of core work throughout your day.

Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purposes only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a dietician before starting any fitness program or making any changes to your diet.