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Nearly every movement you make calls on the muscles of your midsection, from walking your dog to squatting with a heavy load to simply reaching for a glass of water. And while it’s wise to strengthen all the muscles in your body, focusing first on your core makes good sense.

“The core is where all movement begins,” says Maricris Lapaix, a National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) certified personal trainer in Los Angeles who leads workouts on the app Centr.

The core, which comprises several abdominal muscles and the muscles in your pelvic floor, spine, and hips, stabilizes and controls the pelvis and spine and, by extension, affects upper- and lower-body movements.

For example, bracing your core muscles can prevent your lower back from bearing the brunt of the load when you squat to pick up a heavy box, which may stave off lower back pain and injury.

Because the muscles in your torso support your spine, strengthening the core is one of the best ways to prevent back pain and injury as you age, per the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

In addition to making everyday activity possible (and easier), strong core muscles make fitness pursuits safer and more efficient by improving balance, stability, and posture.

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