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 exercise injuries. 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:
multiple muscle groups.
Functional exercises require you to use several muscle groups in one fluid movement. This will not only strengthen and develop your core muscles—the muscles in your back, abdomen, pelvis, and hips—which are critical for posture, flexibility, balance, and stability—it will also strengthen and tone the peripheral muscles in your arms and legs.
Even if you're diligent about cardio workouts, you need core-strengthening exercises to further improve bone density. Combining a cardio routine with core training on alternate days will not only make you stronger, it will help prevent bone loss in the hips, spine, and wrists.
This is the best part. Incorporating core strengthening 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 for at-home exercises:
- 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
For more on core exercises, you can also refer to Dr. Agatston’s South Beach Supercharged Fitness Program in his book, The South Beach Diet Supercharged.