You've heard it said a million times before, a strong core is essential for your physical health. Your core muscles, especially those closest or attaching to the spine, must be engaged every time you move. If you reach your arm out to pick up a glass of water, first the brain sends a message to activate the core before sending the signal to move your arm.

A strong core is not just for athletes or those striving for peak physical performance. Functional fitness is the ability to perform everyday tasks, like walking up the stairs, playing with your kids or getting out of a chair. Since our core and spine must be stable to support all movements, a strong core is vital to optimal functional fitness. If your core is weak, every time you perform a basic action, like bending down to tie your shoelaces, you may be experiencing micro-traumas that eventually lead to significant health issues.

The panther plank is a basic but very effective core exercise that you can implement to your exercise regime today. The video shows you different progressions based on your current strength level.

Click on this link to follow the video on YouTube.

Level 1: Hold the panther plank for 30 seconds. Repeat 2–3 times

Level 2: Alternate lifting each leg off the ground for 30 seconds in total. Repeat 2–3 times.

Level 3: Alternate lifting each arm off the ground. Alternate lifting each leg off the ground and extending it straight behind you. Start with 30 seconds and increase the time as you improve.

For all of these, ensure to keep your hips and shoulders balanced. Do not sink into one of your hips or rotate your torso. To challenge yourself, place a broomstick or ball on your lower back and ensure it doesn't fall off as you move. If you can balance the object, it means your hips are even.