Keeping strong abdominal muscles does more than making us look good. These support the upper body, are involved in everyday motions, and keep our organs safe.
A weak abdomen, on the other hand, may contribute to low back pain and trouble making bending motions. Excess abdominal fat (also known as visceral fat) is the most dangerous form of fat deposit- it may damage our organs rather than protect them.
What is the Abdominal Wall?
Abdominal wall muscles make up the front part of the core (which also includes some leg and low back muscles). This includes the rectus abdominis (the six-pack) and the internal and external obliques (lateral sides of the rectus abdominis).
The rectus abdominis is involved in forward bending motions- as in picking up something or doing a sit up. The internal and external obliques are involved in moving the trunk of the body from side to side (side bending). Together, these muscles help support for the upper body including its weight and movement.
A Weak Core and Low Back Pain
The lack of exercise and excessive sitting weaken abdominal muscles (and the entire core). Because core muscles help support the upper body and the lumbar spine, their weakness place extra stress on the lower back.
This extra stress may present itself as discomfort at first, but it may progress to pain and even instability if not addressed. It is important to engage these muscle in movements throughout the day and during exercise to keep them strong and healthy.
Dangers of Abdominal Fat
The body stores fat, the energy molecule, all throughout the body. Fat can be found under the skin (subcutaneous) and surrounding visceral organs (visceral fat). But when fat deposits are too big, health problems may arise.
This is especially true for visceral organs, whose function may be affected by excess fat deposits. These fat deposits can affect the heart, liver, and pancreas leading to changes in glucose and lipid metabolism. Adverse changes in glucose and lipid metabolism contribute to the incidence of lifestyle diseases like type 2 diabetes.
Keeping the Inches Off
Aerobic exercises like jogging, swimming, and cycling can help keep the extra pounds off. Core exercises like planks, side planks, and sit-up are especially useful at strengthening abdominal wall muscle and the entire core.
It is important to take ergonomic breaks in-between long periods of sitting to prevent lower back discomfort and pain. Eating a well-balanced diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables also helps keep the weight off and keep organs healthy.
“Chapter 25: Abdominal Walls.” CHAPTER 25: ABDOMINAL WALLS, 2008, www.dartmouth.edu/~humananatomy/part_5/chapter_25.html.