Think fast: What’s your favorite type of exercise? If you’re like most people, cardio is at the top of your list. But focusing too much on cardio while neglecting core-strengthening exercises can result in weak core muscles and poor flexibility — and that can increase your chances of getting hurt. Even those who do conventional weight lifting may be vulnerable to injury, since this type of exercise tends to isolate muscle groups and neglect those all-important core muscles.
In his book, The South Beach Diet Wake-Up Call, Dr. Arthur Agatston emphasizes the importance of functional fitness — core-strengthening exercises that mimic everyday activities, such as bending and lifting — in addition to cardio conditioning. Here’s more on the benefits of functional fitness:
It will strengthen
your core muscles.
Functional exercises require you to use several muscle groups in one fluid movement. This will strengthen and develop the muscles in your back, abdomen, pelvis, and hips, and promote stability and flexibility — all essential for preventing injury and helping you maintain a healthy weight.
It will tone your
muscles and improve bone density.
Even if you're diligent about cardio workouts, you need core-strengthening exercises to further improve muscle tone and bone density. Combining a cardio routine with core training on alternate days will not only make you stronger, it will also help promote good posture and balance.
This is the best part. Incorporating core exercise into your exercise regimen doesn’t require you to buy fancy, expensive equipment like balance boards and pulley-type machines to see results. We recommend the following:
- A bench or a chair without arms
- A mat or thick towel to protect your back and knees during floor exercises
- Light hand weights
- An exercise step, also called an aerobic step, for at-home exercises
For more on core exercises, you can also refer to Dr. Agatston’s South Beach Supercharged Fitness Program in his earlier book, The South Beach Diet Supercharged.