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Keeping a strong core is key to living pain-free

Sunday - 8/11/2013, 6:45am  ET

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Keeping a strong core is a great way to prevent lower back pain and to reduce your risk of disease. (Courtesy Lisa Reed)

Lisa Reed, special to wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Lower back pain is a serious and common issue for many adults, but research from Harvard Medical School says you can avoid it by keeping a strong core.

Here are some tips on how you can incorporate core-focused exercises into your workout routine.

What is your core?

The area of the body commonly referred to as your "core" is made up of several groups of abdominal muscles, as well as muscles in your lower back, hips and pelvic floor. These muscles work together to stabilize the spine and provide a foundation for your body's movement. So it's important to keep them strong.

How can you strengthen your core?

To properly build your core, your regular fitness program should incorporate exercises with positions tailored to each of your core muscles.

This includes lower back exercises, hip lifts, balance exercises and oblique exercises. The video below provides examples of how to target these areas.

A healthy core helps to prevent disease and back pain.

Your core is truly the key to your overall fitness. When your core is lean, this usually means that the rest of your body is lean, too.

Too much abdominal fat puts you at a higher risk for heart disease, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Knowing your waist circumference can help you manage your health and minimize the risk of developing a chronic disease. Wrap a tape measure around your body at the top of your hipbones, level with your navel. And don't hold your breath while measuring.

If your waist is over 40 inches for men or 35 inches for women, you are at a higher risk of developing disease, and you are also more likely to develop back pain. This is because the extra weight on your waist will shift the natural balance of your body.

It's important to remember that these tips and exercises are not intended to treat back pain, but to help you take care of your core to keep back pain from happening in the first place.

And remember: Simply working out is not enough to lead a healthy life. Staying fit requires clean nutrition, proper cardiovascular exercise and strength training.

Lisa Reed is a certified personal trainer in the D.C. area and owner of Lisa Reed Fitness. Read more about Lisa at www.lisareedfitness.com. Follow @lisareedfitness and @WTOPLiving on Twitter.

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Tags: lisa reedfitnessexercisecore