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A strong core: The simple, flexible, and portable workout

Also: Pets can provide more than companionship; SMART ways to set core exercise goals.
May 7, 2015
Harvard Medical School

A strong core: The simple, flexible, and portable workout

Strengthening your core muscles doesn't have to be overwhelming. You can do these simple exercises anywhere and adapt them as you gain fitness.

Product Page - Gentle Core Exercises
Gentle core exercises are specially designed for people who aren't up to tackling regular core exercises, perhaps because they are out of shape or possibly due to an injury or health problem. This Special Health Report will show you how to build your core with workouts that are gentle and rewarding. You’ll be introduced to more than three dozen exercises designed to strengthen core muscles, increase flexibility and stability, improve balance, and tone your silhouette.

Read More

The office workout

The following routine is a great way to ease into core work. You can do these four exercises at work, without your colleagues being any the wiser. You can do these exercises at home, too, thanks to simple variations. The front plank, for example, can be done while either leaning on your desk or using the kitchen counter to support your weight.

Equipment needed: Desk (a table or countertop is also fine), exercise mat, and sturdy chair.

Chair Stand

Chair Stand

Front Plank on Desk



Abdominal Contraction

Abdominal Contraction

To learn more about building a strong core, buy Gentle Core Exercises: Start toning your abs, building your back muscles, and reclaiming core fitness today, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.

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News and Views from the Harvard Health Blog

Pets can help their humans create friendships, find social support

Pets can provide their owners with more than their companionship. A new study shows they can also help create human-to-human friendships and social support, both of which are good for long-term health.

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SMART ways to set core exercise goals

Strengthening your core offers big payoffs, including sports successes, a stronger lower back, independent living, and all-around fitness. Sounds great, right?

Even so, finding the time and will to do these exercises may not be easy. But experts say you're more likely to be successful if you set goals that are SMART - that is, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based. So when you set a goal for your core workouts, make sure it passes the SMART test:

S: Set a very specific goal. I will do a set of four different exercises on Mondays and Wednesdays. Or, This week, I will do a set of front planks on desk plus chair stands on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.

M: Find a way to measure progress. I will log my efforts daily on my calendar, checking off days when I meet my goal.

A: Make sure it's achievable. Be sure you're physically capable of safely accomplishing your goal. If not, aim for a smaller goal initially: I plan to master four easier exercises, then move on to their more challenging counterparts.

R: Make sure it's realistic. Choose the change you're most confident you'll be able to make. Focus on sure bets: on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 equals no confidence and 10 equals 100% certainty, your goal should land in the 7-10 zone. If not, cut it down to a manageable size. For example, I'll do one front plank on desk three times this week. Or, Every week, I'll add five seconds to the length of time I hold front plank on desk.

T: Set time commitments. First, pick a date and time to start. Starting today, I'll take 10 minutes from my lunch hour to do the Office Workout every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Or, Starting today, I'll do two stretches after my morning shower, when my muscles are warm, every day for a week.

Second, choose one weekly check-in time to keep track of whether you're meeting goals or hitting snags. I'll check my calendar every Friday evening and decide if I should make any changes in my routines. Outside deadlines can be really helpful here, too: Signing up for tennis lessons or planning a beach vacation can prod you to get your core program under way.

For more on how to start exercising your core, including our full workout and stretching routines, buy Gentle Core Exercises, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.

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Featured in this issue

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Gentle Core Excercises

Featured content:

The importance of your core
Tailoring gentle core exercises to your abilities
Structuring your workout: Four commonly asked questions
Posture and alignment
Choosing which gentle core exercises to do
•  ... and more!

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