Core and Spinal Stabilization in Walking
One of the most important components involved in balancing and walking well is the ability of the core musculature to support the spine and skeleton. The core refers to the trunk, including the back and abdominal regions. These muscles produce stability, assist balance, and help coordinate the movement of the arms, legs, and spine. They also help protect the spine from injury. Therefore, it is important to learn how to effectively use these muscles, as core stability is generally unconscious or automatic.
Learning how to engage the core muscles requires patience and consistently applied technique in order for you to habitually use these muscles properly. Firstly, practice this technique: Place two fingers on the bones on the front of your hips (your pelvis.) Then, inch two fingers inward (toward your navel, but above the pubic bone.) When you tighten the abdominal muscles, it should feel tight underneath your fingers, like a belt pulling over your waist. You do not want to feel a pushing up or rounding of the abdominal muscles. Once you feel that you have this technique, try lying on your back with bent knees and gently bringing one heel back towards the buttock while maintaining the abdominal tightening, or drawing in, that you have been practicing. Do 10 repetitions and then repeat with the other heel.
Another core exercise that will help develop stability in walking is the Plank. Firstly, lie on your stomach with your bent and palms resting on the floor. Lift your chest and stomach off the floor and then straighten your legs so that you are balanced on your toes and resting your upper body on your forearms. Maintain the abdominal tightening or “draw in.” Your back should be completely straight. Try to hold this position for 15 seconds or longer. Over time, you can progress the time you practice this exercise in increments of 15 seconds. Remember to keep breathing.
Not all people can safely perform this exercise, so be sure to have clearance from your doctor before you begin this or any other exercise program. This article does not constitute medical advice.