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Use it or lose it. Simple core exercises help you reach the fitness level you need.
Use it or lose it.  This doesn’t mean a choice between bodybuilding or morbid obesity.  Fitness is all about baseline physical conditioning - simple core exercises that keep your muscles in shape for whatever you need to do.


The most basic definition of fitness is health.  If you want to get technical, think of it as your body’s ability to send enough oxygen to your muscles for them to get a job done.  This is why physical fitness programs like the FITNESSGRAM® assessment   for American schoolchildren concentrate on aerobic capacity and muscle qualities.

Beyond that, it becomes a question of what you need or want to do.  Here’s where the bodybuilders, dancers, mountain climbers and joggers come in.  You and I are in it, too, because everybody has to be able to do something.

Children must grow and learn, and that takes a lot of physical and mental energy.  Young adults have to raise children and/or get through the work day with enough energy left over for personal time.  The elderly, as well as people who have been immobilized for a long time or have certain muscle diseases, have to deal with muscle atrophy and may even have difficulty getting out of bed.

So what exactly is muscle and why is it so important even if you don’t lift weights?


Your heart is a muscle.  Like all muscle tissue  , it’s made of long cells that contract and move.  Cardiac muscle actually contracts and relaxes - it beats.

There are two other kinds of human muscles.  Skeletal muscle, as you might suspect, moves the skeleton, but it’s also found in the tongue and around the eye.  This kind of muscle makes rapid, forceful movements of short duration.  Skeletal muscles can be controlled voluntarily.  The muscles that bodybuilders work on - even the abs - are skeletal muscles.

Smooth muscle is different.  It forms thin sheets   and you can’t control how it works.  It’s found in blood vessels and the digestive tract, among other places, and is good for slow, sustained contractions that aren’t very intense.

A chemical reaction involving oxygen makes all these work. The good news is, if you exercise regularly, your capacity to take in oxygen improves.  Your muscles become more efficient and take longer to tire out.  Here’s the bad news:  If you don’t exercise regularly, things go in the opposite direction.

This is true even if you’re just using those muscles to stand up and keep your balance as you walk around the grocery store or get up out of a chair. 

So what’s a couch potato or somebody with a sedentary job to do?

Core exercises

You don’t have to belong to a gym to do simple exercises   that keep your core muscles around the abdomen, back and pelvis in shape.  You should, however, check with a doctor before starting any exercise program.  Your healthcare provider may even give you core exercises that are specifically designed for you.

Whatever core exercises you choose, commit to doing them every day.  That’s easier to do if you’re comfortable, and all it takes is a carpeted floor or mat and some loose clothing.  When tempted to put it off or skip it one day, remind yourself of all the benefits you’re getting from this little investment in time:  feeling better; having better posture and balance; moving more easily; having better abs.  The list goes on and on.

Fitness means being ready for whatever you want to do - run a marathon, build a career, chase after kids and grandkids, or just get out of a hospital bed and sit up in a chair for a while.  Core exercises are a great way to stay fit because they improve your muscles and help you maintain the level of conditioning that’s right for you.


Histology:  Muscle Lab  .  Yale University.

Regulation of Muscle Atrophy in Aging and Disease  .  Vinciguerra et al., PubMed.

Getting enough ATP  .  Dawn Tamarkin, STCC Foundation Press.

Cardiorespiratory Fitness and Energy Systems  .  Jamie Willson, Folsom Lake College.

Note:  This article first appeared at http://blogjob.com/healthwellness/2014/05/20/muscle-and-fitness/ in 2014
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