Wednesday, June 16, 2010

9 Steps to a Stronger Core!

Source: http://www.health.com

When you think “core,” the first thing that comes to mind is probably washboard abs. But there’s so much more to your middle: along with your abdominal muscles, the muscles in your pelvis and hips and around your spine support your organs and stabilize your back, providing a solid center for your entire body.

And if that isn’t enough, your marvelous midsection also houses the all-important digestive and reproductive systems. Read on to find out how to keep your core strong and running smoothly for years to come. Here are 9 steps to strengthen your core...and its never too late to start!

1> Your 30s: Strengthen 360 degrees
Many women overwork their abs but neglect other core muscles like muscles deep in the abdomen that get very short and tight, and the muscles on the outside of hips that don’t get any work. Pick an exercise program that focuses on body alignment and overall core strengthening (such as Pilates or yoga) rather than just mindless repetition of crunches.

2> Your 30s: Baby your back
During pregnancy, 50 to 70 percent of women complain about back pain, and weak or tight core muscles are often to blame. To stay pain-free, try the Cat and Cow stretch, suggests Desi Bartlett, a certified personal trainer and yoga instructor and host of the DVD Prenatal Yoga.

3> Your 30s: Beat indigestion
If your digestive problems persist for at least three months and are so frequent and severe that they interfere with your life, you could have irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. What can help: exercise. Try gentle modes of moving, such as walking and yoga, as hard-core workouts can worsen symptoms.

4> Your 30s: Bulk up your diet
If you don’t have IBS and are just dealing with occasional gastro woes, try eating more fiber to help keep your waste elimination system moving. Eat around the color wheel, which means a diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables.

5> Your 40s: Hinder hidden fat
On average, women gain a pound a year in the years before menopause. The pinchable bit under the skin may be what you notice, but it’s the fat surrounding the organs deep in your abdomen that can do real damage. This stuff, also known as visceral fat, has been linked to increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, even cancer. The best way to fight back: work out more. Aim for an hour a day, either all at once or broken up into smaller chunks.

6> Your 40s: Work your floor
Always running for the restroom? Leakiness can be due to a weak pelvic floor, which are the muscles that support your pelvic organs. Strengthen those muscles now, because later in life, a weak pelvic floor can lead to incontinence and, in extreme cases, uterine prolapse (where your uterus drops downward into your vagina).

7> Your 50s+: Stand strong
Perfecting your posture can help prevent the back pain that can come from years of wear and tear. Practice in front of the mirror: make sure your ears are over your shoulders, shoulders over hips, hips over knees, and your shoulders rolled back. Soften your knees and concentrate on tightening your abdomen and pulling your pelvic floor up and in.

8> Your 50s+: Hit the big screen
Your risk of colorectal cancer rises dramatically as you age. The good news: screening is highly effective at detecting this disease early; in fact, the death rate has been dropping for two decades. Have your first colonoscopy at 50 (or earlier if you have a family history of colorectal polyps or cancer).

9> Your 50s+: Be symptom-smart
Don’t ignore bloating and pelvic pain; they could be symptoms of ovarian cancer, which strikes women in their 50s and 60s more often than younger women.

For more details on these 9 simple steps, click here http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20386105_1,00.html

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