The difference between aging and growing old comes down to how we move, live, and view the aging experience. By continuing to exercise, engaging in fulfilling hobbies, and refusing to settle, you can participate in healthy, active aging.
Core exercises are a must for aging populations. Here are some of the benefits of core exercises for older adults and some of the best core exercises for seniors.
The Benefits of Core Exercises for Older Adults
Core exercises are one of the most critical training modalities for seniors. Dedicating a few minutes each day to core training can profoundly impact one's longevity and quality of life. Here are some of the main benefits of core exercises for older adults.
Balance and Stability
As we get older, balance and stability become more challenging. Age-related muscle degeneration, known medically as sarcopenia, decreases strength in the stabilizer muscles. As a result, you'll start to lose your balance.
Working on core exercises helps maintain those vital stabilizer muscles, which keep you upright and on track.
Fall and Injury Prevention
One of the main concerns with diminished balance is the coinciding increased risk for falls. There are many reasons why seniors tend to fall more, from vision and hearing problems to reduced mobility.
In our youth, those strong core muscles allow us to catch ourselves and prevent the fall from occurring. As our bones become weaker with age, falling at 70 can be more damaging than falling at 20. By building a strong core, you can prevent lasting, debilitating injuries.
Read Also: Strength Training For Women Over 60
Holistic Pain Management
Low back pain is an issue that affects 60-70% of adults in the industrialized world at some point in their life. While this issue affects everyone, it becomes more prevalent with age.
Building core strength can help prevent and correct low back pain. This is a holistic approach to pain management that treats the root cause rather than using medications. Keep in mind that the core is more than abdominal muscles; it also incorporates the muscles in your lower back.
Core exercise can effectively build muscular strength and burn calories while keeping your metabolism in check. It's also a low-impact form of exercise, which makes it accessible for everyone. Many core exercise movements can be performed from the floor or as chair exercises for seniors with reduced mobility.
Best Core Exercises for Seniors
When starting a core muscle exercise program, safety is the number one priority. Don't hesitate to use implements to help with balance and consider having someone present to assist as needed.
Here are some of the best core strengthening exercises for older adults.
Pelvic tilts should be a starting point for all seniors who are starting a core exercise routine. This foundational movement helps build body awareness and forms core bracing habits to support other exercises.
Lay on your back on the floor with knees bent and arms by your sides.
Take a breath, push your lower back into the floor, squeeze your glutes, and tilt your pelvic bone toward your belly button.
Hold for ten seconds and release.
Pelvic tilts are an excellent exercise for building a strong core and a fantastic warm-up movement.
Bird dogs are another core exercise performed on the floor. This balance exercise helps build core stability and reduce low back pain.
Get on your hands and knees on the floor, with knees hip-width apart.
Brace your core with a pelvic tilt, take a breath, and lift one leg and the opposite hand.
Slowly raise your hand and leg until they are in alignment with your back.
Pause at the top and slowly lower back to the floor. Repeat on the other side.
Feel free to do a few practice movements by lifting your hand and leg a few inches off the floor. The goal is to prevent shifting and maintain balance while engaging the abdominal muscles and the shoulder and hip stabilizers.
This floor core exercise is similar to bird dogs but performed from your back. Like the bird dogs, this core stability exercise works everything between the hips and shoulders using contra-lateral movements.
Lie on your back on the floor with your arms extended toward the ceiling—perpendicular to the floor. Bend your knees so that your thighs are perpendicular to the floor and your shins are parallel. This is your starting position.
Tilt your pelvis and brace your core. Then, slowly extend one arm backward over your head while stretching the opposite leg.
When your arm and leg are fully extended and hovering approximately an inch above the floor, pause and reverse the movement to complete one rep.
Repeat on the other side.
Shoulder mobility issues and overhead movements are common restrictions for older adults. Work within your natural range of motion to prevent injuries.
Hollow holds are a static hold that operates similar to a reverse plank, making it more accessible for seniors. The hollow hold is a beginner-friendly calisthenics exercise that will help seniors build a strong core.
Lay flat on your back on the floor with your arms stretched overhead.
Tilt your pelvis to drive your lower back into the floor. Make sure that there is no room between your lower back and the ground.
Slowly raise your arms, shoulders, and legs off the floor. Keep your hands together, and toes pointed.
Hold this position for 10-30 seconds, then slowly lower back to starting position.
If you have shoulder issues, keep your arms by your side rather than overhead.
Read Also: How To Gain Muscle As a Man Over 60
Twist exercises effectively engage the obliques and improve core stability. Standing twists are ideal for seniors who are ready to progress from floor movements.
Stand with your back against the wall and arms extended in front of you with your palms together.
Slowly raise your left foot about an inch off the floor, using the wall behind you for stability. If this is too challenging, lift only your heel.
Slowly turn your upper body, moving your hands to the right while keeping your palms together. Pause, then twist to the left to complete the rep. Try to keep your hips and belly button facing forward.
Once you've completed your reps for the left foot, switch to the right, and repeat.
This movement also works with chair exercises. Instead of standing, sit in a chair and complete the twist motion.
Resistance bands are a must-have exercise device for seniors. They're easy to use and allow you to scale the intensity as you progress. The Pallof Press is an anti-rotational core and balance exercise that engages the core muscle groups to prevent twisting.
Secure a resistance band at chest height to a rack or alternative fixed point.
Grab the resistance band with both hands folded in front of you. Position yourself parallel to the anchor point so that the band is stretched to the side and has tension.
Keep your feet inside of hip-width, brace your core, and push your arms outward until fully extended. Slowly pull them back in to complete the rep.
After your reps are complete, repeat facing the other way.
This exercise aims to stop your body from turning toward the anchor point while controlling the motion. Keep your feet close together for a strong core.
These core exercises for older adults can help improve balance, stability, and strength while contributing to active, functional aging.