Kittle: Strengthen the core to alleviate lower back pain

In Canada, the population of older adults is growing.

The baby boomer generation is huge.

Thanks to modern medicine and health promotion activities we are living longer, but what is the quality of these extended lives?

One way to measure the quality of life is in the ability to perform activities of daily living like bathing, eating and dressing.

These tasks tend to become more difficult as we age but it is possible to stay healthy and lead a long satisfying life the older we get the more important it is to do the things that keep us healthy like exercising and eating right.

Aging is a normal process and some of the signs are familiar to most including loss of height reduced lean body and bone mass, less coordination, loss of balance, flexibility and core strength.

An exercise program for older adults should include a weight-training program that features low resistance and high reps, low impact cardiovascular exercise (aerobics, walking, swimming) flexibility, balance and core training!

“Core” is a big buzzword in fitness. We have core-training classes; learn to run with our core, keep our core protected, and lift with our core. But what is the core?

The rectus abdominis is one big sheet of muscle tissue that runs from your breastbone down to your pelvis.

The external obliques run from your ribs to your hips in a forward direction.

The internal obliques run from your ribs to your hips in a backwards direction.

The transverses abdominis is located deep in your abs, underneath the obliques.

The core (center) of the body is a major connecting link in the body’s musculoskeletal chain.

If you see the body as a chain, it is only as strong as its weakest link.

The midsection of the body needs to be solid and strong to be able to stabilize the spine and pelvis, and transfer force between the upper and lower body.

Weak core muscles result in a loss of the appropriate lumbar curve and a swayback posture.

Stronger, balanced core muscles help maintain appropriate posture and reduce strain on the spine.

Training the muscles of the core helps correct postural imbalances that can lead to injuries.

The biggest benefit of core training is to develop functional fitness—the type of fitness that is essential to daily living and regular activities.

Lower back pain has been labeled the most expensive benign health condition in Canada.

LBP is often associated with an imbalance of strength and flexibility of the lower back and abdominal muscles.

There is a strong correlation between lower back pain and excess bodyweight and decreased physical activity.

It makes sense then that physical fitness combined with a healthy lifestyle may help prevent lower back pain.

In fact many physicians feel the major cause of chronic low back pain is simply physical deconditioning.

Prevention is the key to avoiding lower back pain and individuals should be screened and cleared by physician before starting an exercise program.

Some of the best exercises to strengthen the core, according to the Mayo Clinic, are the bicycle, side bends, superman, bridge, abdominal crunches, plank and side plank. For more information go to and check out the slideshow.

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