3 ways to a stronger core — no crunches here!

Try these simple moves to help keep your back healthy and happy

When you strengthen your core muscles, you form a strong support system for your spine. Think of it as a built-in back support belt or girdle of sorts — but more comfortable. In fact, it may help you prevent a sore lower back or help an achy one feel better.

Strong core muscles — those in your abdomen, hips, lower back and pelvis — may also:

  • Boost your overall fitness.
  • Make everyday activities easier, from vacuuming to toting groceries.
  • Improve your balance and reduce your risk of falls.

Time for crunches, right? Not necessarily.

Abdominal crunches are a go-to exercise for targeting the core. But you have options!

Here are three simple core-strength builders — no special equipment required. Make them part of a balanced exercise routine.* You might start with a few repetitions of each. Add more as you get stronger.;

1. Pelvic tilts — how to do them:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent.
  • Tighten your abdominal muscles as you flatten your back against the floor. Your pelvis should tilt up slightly toward your rib cage.
  • Hold for a few seconds.
  • Return to the start position. Repeat.

2. Bridges — how to do them:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent — with your legs about hip-width apart. Keep your back in a neutral position, not arched or pressed onto the floor.
  • Tighten your abdominal muscles.
  • Raise your hips off the floor until your hips, shoulders and knees are aligned.
  • Hold while taking deep breaths.
  • Return to the start position. Repeat.

3. Side planks — how to do them:

  • Lie on your left side. Your left shoulder and elbow should be aligned. Rest your right arm on your side (as shown).
  • Tighten your abdominal muscles by raising your hip and upper body off the floor.
  • Hold while taking deep breaths.
  • Repeat on your right side.

What to do next

Take a stand for a happier back and better health. Here are some fun and practical ideas for getting up out of your chair more often.

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*Talk with your doctor before significantly increasing your activity level. If you’re recovering from back pain or an injury, ask your doctor what types of activities may be right for you.

Sources: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons; American Council on Exercise; Mayo Clinic