30-Day Challenge: Core Strength


Good core strength is a key element of lasting health and fitness, so we're all about finding ways to help you build yours. We reached out to Kyleigh Roessner, a registered nurse, mother and healthcare blogger, to show what a commitment to a 30-day ab challenge could do. Here's her experience. Your results may vary. Always ask your doctor before trying a new exercise regimen. Best of luck on your own first day and all the days that come after it.

The Challenge

If you've spent time on a fitness-related Pinterest board, then you've surely found yourself looking at health tips — more specifically a 30-day challenge — of some kind. It's an appealing idea to see significant results after just one month of focused daily exercise.

In the past, I've had big plans for my gym memberships and home fitness programs, but my resolve always fizzled out. I prefer the idea of exercise more than actually exercising, it seems.

So, in light of some of my other health challenges, including a foray into a flexitarian diet and a month of exploring mindfulness meditation, I decided an experiment with daily exercise was in order.

Harvard Medical School has found that the benefits of a strong core include improved posture, reduced back pain, increased stability and balance and better performance in home, work and school. What's more, a higher waist circumference is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

I have two factors motivating me through this challenge: If I can decrease my waist circumference by strengthening my core, I can receive a host of health benefits while also reducing my risk of heart disease. And, that's a win-win.

Getting Started

I looked through several ab challenges and ended up picking one that a very thoughtful colleague sent to me because she said she had been successful with it. According to the challenge's website, it's one of their more popular 30-day challenges.

To gauge the effects of the challenge, I needed to establish my starting point. Before beginning, I took a profile photo to show my initial posture. I also measured around my belly button and my natural waist. Because core strength is related to stability, I wanted to check my balance, too. Several research studies had used a Nintendo Wii Balance Board for this purpose. If it's good enough for them, surely, it's good enough for me.

I took measurements and photos each week, as well as video of me doing the four exercises outlined in the challenge, to view my form.

  • Belly button measurement: 38 inches.
  • Natural waist measurement: 35.5 inches.
  • Poor form throughout the exercises.
  • Balance was shifted to the left.

And then it was time to move. It started out easy enough: 15 sit-ups, five crunches, five leg raises and a 10-second plank. Day 1 in the books, easy as pie.

Reaping the Benefits

Two weeks later, facing 70 sit-ups, 95 crunches, 42 leg raises and a full-minute plank, I had gotten to the "challenging" part of this challenge. I was able to manage, even if I needed to pause between a set of 20 here and there.

By the last week, it took everything I had to keep going. I don't even like to count to 100 as a matter of principle, but when I had to actually count to 100 while doing sit-ups and then 160 crunches, it got real. I have to admit that I didn't enjoy it, but it was incredibly empowering to make it through.

My Results Are In

I'm surprised and pleased with the results of this challenge. I wasn't sure I would see any change, let alone a full two inches lost in waist circumference.

  • Belly button: 36 inches.
  • Natural waist: 34 inches.
  • Balance still shifted to the left but with much less variation.
  • Improved form and stamina across all four exercises.

My weight fluctuated throughout the challenge, about one or two pounds in both directions. While my midsection shrunk two inches, I ended up about where I started weight-wise.

I can't conclusively say my posture improved, but it's possible with future exercise, I may have a strong enough core to satisfy even my mother's high standards for posture.

While I will not repeat this ab challenge (I need variety in my life), I can say that it was effective for me, and I will set goals to be more physically active in the future.

Your results may vary. As they say, "Abs are made in the kitchen," and I'm still waiting for the chef to bring mine.

For more health tips and ideas to stay active in your daily life, visit Keep It Moving.