Because having a strong core is an important part of overall good health, especially as we age, here we outline some of the best core exercises for seniors.
A weak core can put you at a higher risk for injury from falls and limit your mobility. Almost every move we make is generated from our core. When someone’s core is weak, it means that other surrounding muscles have to work much harder to make up for it.
Maintaining some level of activity can be helpful for seniors. Walking is good exercise, but you also have to keep your core in mind. Golfing, playing tennis, mopping a floor, as well as getting in and out of a car all require movement that comes from the core.
Benefits of Core Exercises for Seniors
Countless studies have suggested that exercise of any kind slows down the aging process, specifically core strength, which can improve everything from stamina and stability to coordination and posture.
The list below explains some of the benefits of core exercises for seniors:
- Prevents injury – Physical fitness experts will tell you that recovering from an injury is a lot harder than avoiding one in the first place. If you follow an exercise routine that includes core muscle exercises, you will have a much better chance of preventing injury.
- Improves strength – Studies show that core strengthening exercises can improve body strength in older adults by about 30 percent. When you have stronger muscles, it will allow for better mobility.
- Manages pain – A lot of seniors complain about back pain, but core muscle exercises stretch and strengthen muscles, which reduce pain from chronic conditions.
- Balance and stability – Your core helps support your spine, which helps with balance and stability. Research shows that people with a strong core have a better sense of their center of gravity.
- Makes tasks easier – Core muscle exercises for seniors make simple tasks like getting up out of a chair or walking down the sidewalk on a snowy day much easier. Many seniors report a stronger core helps them when they are navigating stairs as well.
Core Exercises for Seniors
The following are some of the best core exercises for seniors. If you don’t already perform core exercises, you should talk to your doctor before starting.
For this core exercise, you stand in front of a chair, gently pull your abdominal muscles in and up, slowly lower your buttocks, and bend your knees as though you are going to sit down. Touch the chair lightly and then return to a standing position. You can do several repetitions.
You lie on your stomach for this exercise with your palms near your shoulders. Slowly move your head, neck, shoulders, and upper core upward while keeping your head up and looking ahead. You should lift until your arms are fully extended. Try not to arch your neck.
For this core exercise, lie on your back with your legs bent and your knees together on the floor at your left side. Extend your arms outward, but keep your shoulder on the ground. Pull your abs in. While keeping your upper body still, slowly roll your knees from the left to the right until they reach the floor or come close to the floor. Hold this position for a few seconds and then roll to the opposite side.
Seated knee lifts
Sit on a mat on the floor and bring both knees toward your chest until your legs reach your abs. Return to the seating position and work your way up to three sets of 15 repetitions.
Kneeling rear leg raise
Get down on your hands and knees and engage your core. Extend your right leg back so that it is hanging slightly above ground and point your toes. Now, lift the leg straight up as high as you can without arching your back, then lower the leg to the starting position. Do this exercise on the other side.
This core exercise strengthens the lower back and can help improve coordination. You start by lying on your stomach with your arms stretched out in front of you. Raise your head, neck, and your right arm, as well as left leg two inches off the floor. Lower and repeat on the opposite side. When performing the Superman, you should try to keep your belly button drawn in toward your spine.
Lie on your back with your legs flat. Contract your abdominal muscles and raise one leg about five inches off the floor. Hold for a few seconds and lower your leg. Repeat the leg lift with the other leg.
Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Put one hand behind your head with the other outstretched to one side. Lean over to one side like you are reaching toward the floor. When you return to the starting position, contract your obliques. Repeat this movement up to five times.
This core exercise for seniors is a little more challenging than some of the others. You lie on your back with your hands behind your head. Bend your knees and lift your feet, so your calves are parallel with the floor. Draw in your belly button and bring one knee into your chest while reaching toward the opposite elbow. Switch to the opposite side. You can repeat this exercise for 30 seconds, rest for one minute, and then do another 30-second set.
Lie flat on your back and keep your knees bent and flat on the ground. Tighten your core and then raise your hips but do no arch your back. Hold for a few seconds and then lower your hips back down.
Tips While Performing Core Exercises
Exercises to strengthen the core for seniors is important but it should not be painful or make any existing physical condition worse. Here are some factors to keep in mind when doing core exercises:
- Warm up – It is a good idea to warm up before performing core exercises by marching in one spot for several minutes while swinging your arms. You can also spend a couple minutes dancing if you like.
- Good form – Maintaining good form is important. Good form is aligning your body as outlined in exercise instructions, as well as moving slowly and smoothly through an exercise.
- Repetition – You should only do as many reps as you can handle. The quality of your movement is more important than the quantity. You should also hold a position only for as long as it is comfortable.
- Pain – Core exercises should not hurt so stop if you feel any pain. In many cases, it is your form that is off and causing the pain.
- Practice – You will experience the best results if you do your core exercises on a regular basis. Three times a week is a good goal.
- Photos – Photos may make exercises look easier, but you should read all instructions carefully and consult with an expert before trying a new technique.
- Bracing yourself – You should tighten your core muscles before starting movement in each exercise. For instance, if you are sitting, standing, or lying on your back, gently tighten your abdominal muscles by drawing you’re naval toward the small of your back. One way to think of it is as if you are pulling your muscles in to zip up a tight pair of pants.
- Be flexible – Don’t skimp on stretches. Muscle strength without flexibility can cause back problems.
- Start with stability – Core exercises are harder on an unstable surface, such as a stability ball, so focus on mastering movements on a flat surface.
- Go beyond abs – While it is important to work on abdominal muscles, a routine that works on all core muscles is advisable if you want to protect your back and be able to participate in activities, like golf and tennis.
- Drop down if too hard – You should be doing fewer reps or hold for fewer seconds if you find the exercise difficult. If you are struggling, then try a different exercise.
- Move up if too easy – When a core exercise feels easy, it might be time to move on to a different exercise.
Our muscle mass and flexibility change as we age and while there is a tendency to slow down in the senior years, being sedentary can be a big mistake. It can lead to a weak core, balance problems, and falling. Falls are the leading cause of injury, hospital admissions, and death among seniors.
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