Twist and shout…work it on out!

Remember the 1960s dance called the Twist? All the millions of people twisting to Chubby Checker and The Beatles’ version of Twist & Shout very likely weren’t focused on improving their health. But it turns out that moving your trunk, as the gyrations of the Twist did so well, actually is very good for you. So come on, come on, come on—let’s do some trunk twisting!

Your trunk, the part of your body from your shoulders to your hips, doesn’t get much of a workout doing daily activities. For one thing, we spend a lot of time sitting—12 hours a day, on average. But even if you’re one of the 33% of Americans who have a gym membership and actually use it, most exercises don’t involve moving your trunk either. When your trunk stays mostly static, it reduces the ability of your rib cage, diaphragm and lungs to expand. This can diminish lymph and blood circulation to the muscles and organs of the trunk. Lack of trunk movement also weakens core muscles, leading to poor posture and raising risk for tension and injury to the back, shoulders and hips.

You can reverse all that by stretching your trunk and strengthening your core muscles. It’s not difficult, and doing it daily pays off big. Right away, you’ll notice improved posture and increased flexibility. You may even feel less winded, because your diaphragm, the principle breathing muscle, will work better, too.

SIMPLE TRUNK-TONING MOVES

One of the easiest ways to get some trunk movement into your day is to walk while swinging your arms. Do this empty-handed so that your arms can swing freely. Try for 20 to 30 minutes daily.

Three more easy moves that do wonders for flexibility, circulation and general well-being…

Plank

There are many variations on the Plank, which engages your abdominal muscles and helps build core strength. For basic Plank, get into a push-up position, with hands directly below the shoulders and arms straight. Hold the position for 10 to 30 seconds to start, building up to one minute. Do once a day.

Variation: Once you can hold the position for one minute, try a three-legged plank—lift one foot slightly off the floor for 30 seconds, then lower it back to the floor. Switch feet and repeat.

Bridge

The Bridge exercise engages your glutes and tones your entire torso. Start by lying on your back, arms at your sides, with your knees bent and your feet flat and close to your buttocks. (You should be able to touch your heels with your fingertips.) Next, raise your hips as high as you can, resting your weight on your head and upper back. Ideally, your body will be in a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Hold the position for 15 seconds, working up to one minute. Then slowly lower your hips back to the floor. Repeat four times. Tip: Remember to breathe naturally during the exercise—don’t hold your breath.

Trunk Twist Series

This three-part exercise stretches your entire core and helps counteract leaning forward to read, text, etc.—plus it feels great!

Step 1: Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart. Place your hands on your shoulders, and slowly twist to your right…then to your left. Repeat the left-to-right twist two times.

Step 2: With your hands still on your shoulders, bend your torso sideways as far as comfortable without straining your low back and hold for several seconds…then bend to the opposite side and hold for several seconds. Repeat two times.

Step 3: With your hands clasped behind your head, slowly bend backward by lifting your chest toward the ceiling. Hold the stretch for a few seconds, then slowly straighten up. Repeat two times. Caution: Only bend as far as is comfortable, keep your chin tucked and don’t let your head flop back. Stop if you feel a strain in your neck or lower back.

Finish: End by gently bending your head and upper torso forward to balance the stretches you just did.