Every week I’ll post a question submitted by a reader, and answer it right here.
If your question is chosen as Fitness Question of the Week, your name will be entered into a monthly prize draw!
“I love the benefits of Pilates, especially now that I’ve learned to “engage” my core muscles. Should I be keeping them engaged all the time?”
In short, no.
Some muscles do contract constantly: your heart, for example, and the muscles of your blood vessels. These are referred to as “smooth” muscles and they work day and night, even when you are sleeping.
Your core consists of skeletal muscles, just like your biceps or hamstrings. These muscles should be able to contract when they’re needed — think of squeezing your arm muscles to lift a heavy bag of groceries — and relax when they’re not. Can you imagine keeping your biceps contracted all day long? Ouch!
Torso muscles are used in movements involving the spine, like twisting and bending, and to stabilize (keeping your spine in a safe position during ice skating). When you are relaxing watching a movie, they are not needed.
Bottom line: condition those core muscles regularly so they are strong enough to move you and protect you when necessary, and relaxed when they’re not.