Too Busy to Exercise? Do This for 5 Minutes Instead

You’ve probably heard the phrase “tighten your core,” “strengthen your core,” or “engage your core,” in a workout class. Instructors go on and on about your core, and for good reason. A stronger core will help you in every aspect of your life.

Keep reading to find out why you should spend five minutes working your core if you don’t have time to exercise.

What is your core

Woman standing in gym clothes showing off mid section

There’s more to your core than just abs. | Jacoblund/iStock/Getty Images

You know the core is somewhere in the middle of your body and has to do with your abs. That’s partly true. “The core makes up nearly half the body and includes all muscles that attach to the pelvis and spine,” Men’s Health says. Your core supports your back and many other muscle groups.

How to get started

young woman doing plank

Planks never fail. |

If you’re new to performing planks, begin by performing a standard plank. Start in a push-up position, resting on your elbows, keeping your body in a straight line. As you get stronger, increase the time you hold a plank position. Shaking when you first start out is normal, PopSugar says. The shaking means your muscles are “just not strong enough yet,” PopSugar writer, Susi May, wrote. “The trembling is caused by your muscles grabbing and releasing one another as they lengthen and shorten,” May explained.

Form is most important

Young man doing planks

It’s very important you practice perfect form. |

“If your lower back is sagging, your core is likely not engaged,” Amanda Christodoulou, certified Pilates instructor and owner of Pilates Body, told SELF magazine. Make sure your back isn’t sagging by performing a plank in front of a mirror. Check your form a few times while you’re holding a plank position and remember to breathe. Christodoulou told SELF magazine, “Bad planks are not better than no planks!”

Keep breathing

man performing a plank on a blue exercise mat as a woman times him

Don’t forget to breathe. |

A common mistake when holding a plank is not breathing. When you’re doing a plank, resist the urge to tense up and stop breathing. “That can actually cancel out a lot of the benefits of engaging your core,” personal trainer Joshua Carter, told Shape magazine. “Without proper breathing, you risk injury by not activating your muscles, you have a less efficient workout, and your form suffers, celebrity trainer and author, Joey Thurman, told Shape magazine.

You’ll get fewer injuries

Fitness female model torso with her hands on hips

A strong core means a strong body. | Jacoblund/iStock/Getty Images Plus

According to Fitness magazine, planks will reduce your risk of injury. “A strong core prevents these other muscles from straining,” Jane Cobler, a doctor of physical therapy at ATI Physical Therapy, told Fitness magazine. “Abs are the foundation and platform from which the rest of your body moves and functions,” Cobler added.

Planks will help you in your day-to-day life

lower back

Planks can also help with back pain. | globalmoments/iStock/Getty Images

Planks will help you with everything you do, Harvard Medical School says. For example, when you’re navigating an icy sidewalk, your core will keep you from falling. If you start to fall, a strong core can help you catch yourself before you hit the ground risking a serious injury. If you suffer from back pain, planks can help relieve stress put on your back because planks strengthen many muscle groups reducing the work your back has to do on a daily basis.

Additional benefits

woman running

You’ll even have better stamina! | Lzf/iStock/Getty Images

You can become a faster runner by increasing your core strength. A Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research study found runners had faster times after six weeks of core training. A strong core can also improve digestion.

“Gaining flexibility along with your stability in the abs, back, and spine will refresh and rejuvenate the systems that help optimize metabolism, cleansing, nutrition, hormonal balance, and keep you looking and feeling your absolute best,” Sadie Nardini, an anatomy and spinal expert, author, and founder of Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga, told Fitness magazine.

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