The Healthy Heart Strength Plan: Wednesday

You can build up your core and strengthen your leg muscles in as little as five minutes a day.

View Monday’s Healthy Heart Plan
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View Saturday’s Healthy Heart Plan

The muscles in your thighs, calves, and buttocks account for about half your muscle mass. Core (abdominal, lower back, and hip) strength is so vital to good health that a 13-year study showed that those who could perform the most sit-ups were significantly less likely to die during the study period than those who could perform the least.

Stability Ball Squat
Stand with the stability ball between your back and the wall so the ball supports you from your hips to your shoulders. Move your feet forward so they’re slightly in front of your body.

Looking straight ahead and keeping your torso erect, bend your knees and squat down, rolling along the ball until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Hold for 2 seconds, then return to the starting position. You can make the move more challenging by holding dumbbells at your sides.

Lie facedown on the floor with your upper body propped on your forearms. Your elbows should be directly beneath your shoulders and your palms flat on the floor.

Raise your body so your torso, hips, and legs are off the floor and your body is in a straight line, supported on your forearms and toes. Don’t let your back arch or droop, and hold for 10 to 20 seconds. Perform just one repetition per set.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest