Your core muscles are like a “box” that supports and helps stabilize your spine. Your abdominal muscles are the front of the box (the deeper muscles, not the ones on the surface that create that “6-pack” appearance), the pelvic floor muscles form the bottom of the box, the deep back muscles form the back of the box, and the diaphragm forms the top of the box. All of these muscles when toned and firing well, will create a sort of tension or pull around the spine and stabilize the vertebrae to keep them from moving excessively which causes extra wear and tear on the bones and surrounding tissues – causing degenerative changes. A weak core is often the most significant contributing factor when your back goes out on you while bending to pick up something as light as a pencil, sneezing or moving just a slight bit.
So the remedy for this is to consistently and deliberately exercise your core muscles. The activities to do this are very low-tech and you don’t need any gym equipment. They can be done right in your own home on the floor. Activities such as a front or side plank (with modifications as needed), abdominal hollowing, pelvic tilts, bridging, and most activities on an exercise ball will help develop good core strength. Like with any exercise activity form is important, so don’t push yourself as it’s not a competition. if you feel larger muscles taking over or other regions of the body contracting, then back off to a modified version.
It’s important to breathe, and breathe properly and effectively, while you do the exercise. This means breathing gently from the mid-low abdominal region, to allow the diaphragm muscle to lift up and drop down so your lungs will fill up and expire. It is called “diaphragmatic breathing.”
I found this article in my inbox this morning from the Mayo Clinic newsletter, which may also help explain the importance of the core: http://diet.mayoclinic.org/diet/move/focus-on-your-core?xid=nl_MayoClinicDiet_20160203
If you know you have health concerns that would limit you from doing particular exercises or have any concern in this area, please consult your doctor. A good physical therapist or personal trainer may also be able to help you learn how to do these activities correctly and avoid injury.