As you may already know there are tremendous benefits to exercise including the controlling and prevention of chronic conditions such as cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure and metabolic syndrome; the slowing or reversing of such common ailments like arthritis, low back pain and pre-menstrual syndrome, as well as helping to control emotional conditions like mild depression. And while it true that working your abdominals can help produce a trim, sexy mid-section what is also worthwhile realizing is that there are many other valuable benefits to having strong abdominals.
Strong abdominals help to minimize back pain, which is the number one reason for emergency room visits in the U.S. and tops the list for lost pay due to absenteeism. A well toned mid-section helps to improve posture while sitting and standing. For those individuals with desk jobs, this is critical to long-term comfort. Strong abdominal muscles also help to improve the athletic performance of sports enthusiasts at any level. And perhaps most importantly, strong abdominals increase one’s overall quality of life. Think about it, everything from standing up, reaching, getting up and down off the floor or playing with the children become easier with strong abdominals. Finally, working your abs typically will result in a thinner, more toned body, which is good for one’s self-esteem because you will feel more attractive.
Major benefits of having toned abdominal muscles:
Improves digestion and elimination: The process of peristalsis (food moving through the digestive track) is greatly improved when you practice ab and stomach exercises. This is due to the actual movement of the exercise itself as well as improving the overall function of the organs and tissues associated with digestion. Elimination is also improved.
Reduces back pain/ protects the back: Weak abs put unnecessary strain on your lower back both in just holding your spine in a good stable posture as well as for everyday movements like bending over to pick something up getting in and out of a car. You need strength in your core to do this without hurting your back. Having strong abs also helps to reduce or eliminate lower back pain.
Improves athletic performance: Most movement begins with the core. Having toned abdominals helps your entire body function optimally. When you regularly practice ab and stomach exercises you will dramatically increase endurance and power through out your entire body. A strong core will also help protect you from injury during athletic activities.
Good posture: Stong abs help you keep good posture which means that your spine I more likely align properly. This improves the functioning and movement of your entire body as well as your nervous system.
Improves your breathing: The more toned your abs are the more they can assist in breathing. Try this little experiment. Sit upright in a chair and place your hands on your belly. Take a slow deep inhalation and then a long slow exhalation. Notice how your belly moves out on the inhalation and out on the exhalation. What makes these movement possible are your abs.
Helps maintain proper functioning of the stomach organs: When you exercise your abdominal area, the organs of this area get an internal massage. The organs are squeezed and soaked in fresh blood. In yoga this is referred to as a “tonifying” effect on the organs. Metabolic wastes are squeezed out and fresh blood with oxygen and nutrients are brought back into the organs.
Helps with pregnancy/child birth: Exercising before pregnancy as well as during pregnancy will make for easier child birth. It will also help your reduce stress, help keep you healthy and after you give birth, your body will return to its original form a lot quicker! Note: There are many stomach exercises that should be avoided or modified during pregnancy. Working with a knowledgeable fitness professional is highly recommended until you know which exercises to include and which to avoid.
Increases muscle mass: Challenging any muscle group with resistance exercises will build muscle. This is highly desirable not only for strength, but because the more muscle you have on your body the more calories you will burn, even at rest!
Enhances overall looks: Working your abs helps to flatten your belly and adds to a long lean look. If you watch your diet and add some exercise then you might just find your 6-pack too! By including ab and stomach exercises in your workout you probably burn more calories too. And when you look good and feel good, your self-confidence and self-esteem can soar!
Prevent hernias: Hernias are often caused by weak abdominal muscles. Simply put, strong abs will greatly decrease your chances of developing a hernia.
Less pressure on your joints: Having a strong core helps to stabilize your body. This keeps your body balanced and unwanted pressure off your joints, which can lead to injury and pain.
Improves your energy: According to some eastern practices the stomach is the seat of will power and making sure that this area is strong, flexible and healthy will allow energy to flow properly. Test this out for yourself. Do ten minutes of ab and stomach exercises and notice how your energy level improves!
About The Exercise
Standing fire wash
Stand with your legs a little wider than hip width apart and bend your knees. Place your hands on your thighs, with the baby-finger sides of your hands facing away from you. As you exhale completely, draw your belly button towards your spine. Holding your breath “out” pump your belly in and out up to 15 times. DO NOT let your self get out of breath and do not force yourself. In the beginning your may only be able to pump your belly 5 times. Work up to 2–3 rounds of 15 pulls over the course of a few weeks or months. This exercise is also good for improving your digestion.
Start by taking your feet 2 1/2 to 3 feet apart. Interlace your fingers and take your hands up overhead. As you exhale bring your hands between your legs as if you were chopping wood. Now take your arms back up over head. Repeat 6 to 10 times. If you have any lower back issues be sure to bend you knees slightly. If for any ‘reason this exercise hurts your back don’t do it.
Woodchopper with one hand
This is just like the last version of Woodchopper except you only use one arm. For this version you will need a foam yoga block or a light book. Stand with you feet 2 1/2 to 3 feet apart. Holding the block or book in your right hand and take it up overhead. Keep your left arm and hand by your side. As you exhale take your right hand down between your legs. Now bring your right arm back up overhead. Repeat 3–5 times on the right and 3–5 times on the left.
Begin by standing with your legs directly under your hips. Next interlace your fingers behind your head. As you exhale lift your left knee toward your stomach and bring your right elbow to the outside of your left knee. Release your left foot to the floor, lift your torso and your right elbow back up behind your head. Now do the other side bringing your right knee towards your stomach and your left elbow to the outside of your right knee. Go back to the right side and do 3–5 more rounds alternating sides as you perform the exercise.
Get up, get down
Begin by lying down on your back with your legs extended in front of you. Place a foam yoga block, book, or light dumbbell in your right hand and extend it straight up towards the ceiling. Keeping your right arm extended the whole time, bend your knees, place your feet on the floor and stand up in one smooth motion. Use your left hand to help you get up if need be. You should end standing on your feet with your right arm extended overhead. Now lay back down again onto the floor. Repeat 3–5 times and then do the other side. In addition to working the abs you’ll also find this exercise to be very aerobic!
The information contained in this Post is intended as a fitness guide and it’s not intended to replace a personal coach. Remember to consult your doctor before beginning any type of workout or diet program. information unknown to you may have an adverse effect on your physical well-being even including death. You may think you’re in physical shape to pursue the activities described in this document; only your doctor is qualified to make that decision. Tell him or her that you are planning to begin an exercise program.