A strong core is a great measure for good health. From supporting your balance to reducing pain, the benefits are far-reaching. Every movement you make is generated from your core, making it an extremely important part of your body to keep strong. The core muscles don’t just include your abdominals, but also your back muscles, muscles along your spine, pelvis and even hips. If these become weakened, then other muscles need to work even harder to overcompensate, which often results in injury and soreness.
Including core exercises to your workout or daily movement is essential for the elderly. Having a strong core has many benefits too. From reducing injury risk due to poor balance to increasing your mobility, here are a few added bonuses to strengthening your core;
Making your day-to-day easier – Without core strength, even simple tasks like getting up out of your chair become difficult. Working out your core muscles provides you with a better reaction time and allows you to feel more confident with daily tasks.
It’s all about balance – One of the main roles of the core is to support the spine. This is key for aiding in stability, especially when walking. With good balance, you are more likely to prevent injury from trips and falls.
Improve whole-body strength and reduce pain – Research has found that strengthening the core can also impact the body strength of seniors by up to 30%. This also resulted in reduced pain in chronic conditions.
So how do you achieve and most importantly maintain a strong core? Read on for these great core exercises for elderly persons.
- Squats – The PT’s favourite and for good reason. The humble squat is great for the whole body but really engages the core.
How to: Start by standing with your feet about hip-width apart and your back straight. Bending at your knees, as if you are about to sit on a chair, keep your chest up and face forward. If you need extra support use a chair in front of you to hold onto, arms outstretched. Continue to bend your knees until your calves and thighs create a 90-degree angle. All the time engage your core muscles by squeezing in your navel to your spine. This may take a little practice! Try 3 sets of 5 to begin with, then build up to 3 sets of 10.
- Leg Lifts. Floor exercises like this one may require some assistance for some older people. If this is the case, stick to seated versions or modify the exercise to perform it in your bed.
How to: Lay on a yoga mat or towel, flat on your back with your legs extended. Keeping your legs straight, lift one heel off the ground, engaging your core so your back stays flat to the ground. Hold for a moment and lower the leg slowly back to the mat. Repeat on the other side and perform this again for 10 to 15 times.
Once you become stronger you can try lifting both legs at once. It is important to try and keep your back flat on the mat, activating the core each time.
- Seated Side Bends. Performing exercises on a chair allows you to work your muscles with more accessibility.
How to: Sit on a chair with your back straight, your feet planted firmly on the ground, and your knees a few inches apart. Next, hold one hand behind your head and extend the opposite arm straight out to the side. Lean to the side as though you are reaching for something with the outstretched hand. You don’t have to lean too far over; however, you should contract your abdominal muscles as you rise back to an upright position.
Repeat this exercise in one direction 10 to 15 times. Then, switch arms and do another set of 10, or 15 while bending in the opposite direction. Repeat 3 sets on each side.
- Abdominal Bracing. This exercise sounds too simple to be effective yet making it a habit can have a great impact on both your core and posture.
How to: This exercise works on the transverse abdominis muscle – imagine it wrapping around your core like a corset. Begin by standing tall and draw in your belly button to your spine while lightly tightening your abs. Hold this contraction for as long as you feel comfortable, remembering to breathe normally and practice it throughout the day. Making it a habit will mean you can do this exercise throughout the day without even thinking about it, increasing its effectiveness.
- The Bridge. This one is important for strengthening the lower back, glutes and hips as well as the abdominals, crucial for keeping your spine and discs in proper alignment.
How to: Begin by lying on your back on a mat or towel. Bend your legs at a 90-degree angle to the floor, feet flat on the floor for your starting position. Next, activate your glutes and core and push your hips toward the sky, creating a bridge. Hold for a moment, then slowly lower your hips with control until you’re almost touching the floor. Repeat for 5 to 10 reps, making sure to breathe normally.
- The Modified Plank. Planks are one of the best exercises to target your core, as well as your upper body and arms. It is, however, quite a strong exercise, therefore variations are needed such as using your forearms as you build up your strength. If your knees are sensitive, you can use a towel or rolled-up mat under them.
How to do it: Begin on a mat or towel facing the floor on your hands and knees. Now walk out your hands a few inches in front of you as if you are about to perform a pushup, and lower onto your elbows and forearms. Contract your core to support you and focus on drawing in your belly button toward your spine. Hold for as long as you can! 30 seconds up to a minute should be the target.