Let’s talk about one of the most admired parts of the human body, the stomach. A toned and sculpted midsection seems to be on every fifties’ list of things to achieve. It’s a power statement that reads “I am healthy, strong and proud”. It gives us the confidence to stand taller, therefor changing the way we carry ourselves, inside and out. But what other uses do the abdominals have on the body?

Imagine how it would feel to have a physique that allows you to move gracefully, breathe with ease and have energy levels that keep you moving all day. Well believe it or not, the core is where it all starts. Your core muscles hold you up and are used to assist the body’s movement on a daily basis. The core, as described by Joseph Pilates, is our powerhouse. So could a strong core mean better posture and a healthier life?

What are the Core muscles and how do they assist in having good posture?
If we were to cut a torso in half what would we see? (A little gruesome, but roll with it!) We would see four layers of abdominal muscle consisting of…

Transverse Abdominals – The most inner layer that wraps around the torso like a corset that supports and stabilises the spine and organs located there. It also assists the movement of breathing.

Internal and External Obliques – Criss Cross muscles that are primarily used for rotating, twisting and side to side movements.

Rectus Abdominals – The outer layer of abdominal muscle that supports the body in bending forwards and backwards, and that also contributes to the flexion of the hip joint.

So in short, the abdominals all work together to keep you upright and your body and its organs protected and supported.

What are the benefits in achieving better posture?

Back Pain
Many people in different walks of life suffer from some kind of back pain. It can be really disruptive to your concentration, making working life a challenge. Good posture is so important as it ensures your body is in the correct alignment which takes the stress off your spine and places it in your abdominals.

Improved Breathing
Of course it improves breathing. Slouching essentially compresses your lungs, making deep breathing difficult. We are often then forced to take shallow breaths which can lead to a decrease in oxygen circulation to your brain. Maybe that mental fog you get mid afternoon is something to do with your posture?

Good Digestion
Many people believe that we can measure our health by our digestive function. A poor digestive system can zap energy levels if its working overtime and can cause gas or bloating. It is such a foundation for good health. Like breathing, good posture can relieve pressure from your digestive system, freeing it up so it can work more efficiently.

Easy-to-implement Core Exercises
Here are my top tips on what you can do to keep firing up those much needed muscles to have a solid center. The exercises can be done anywhere, anytime… no excuses.

When making tea – Balance on One Leg
Try standing with your feet a hips width apart, your shoulders and your hip bones should be parallel to each other and in line. Back of the neck is long and your chin is parallel to the floor. Fold one knee up to the chest. Interlock the fingers around the knee and when you feel comfortable you can remove your hands and try balancing on the standing leg. You can add challenge by extending the leg to the front and to the side in line with your hip. Make sure you repeat on the alternate leg.

Swap your desk chair with a stability ball.
Sitting on a stability ball will help engage those core muscles throughout the day. The squishy nature of the ball increases your instability, forcing your abs and your back muscles to work to maintain an upright posture. To challenge yourself while sitting, you can add alternating floating a foot at a time: Sit upright with your arms extended by your side, palms pressing against the ball, inhale to prepare and as you exhale engage your abdominals and float one foot off the floor trying to maintain alignment of shoulders and hips; hold the position for a few breaths then repeat on the other side

Stash a Bosu Under Your Desk.
A bosu ball is half a stability ball with a flat bottom. You can easily place it under your desk or bed and use it when needed. Any balance work you can do standing or kneeling on the floor, you can also do it on the bosu. It activates the deep core muscles and it’s fun!

words by Lara Hassan

image: Clothes all by Lija (soon to be available in House of Fraser)