Core strengthening exercises for seniors are absolutely must. They have been shown to work toward enhancing postural stability, improving balancing abilities and reducing risk of falling.
To appreciate these facts first we need to understand: What are core muscles?
Core muscles include muscles of the hips, pelvis, abdomen, trunk, shoulders and neck.
Every physical activity you do in daily life (such as standing, sitting, walking, jogging, running, swimming, turning, bending, twisting, carrying something) starts with your core (center of the body) and moves out to your arms and legs.
Whether you stand or sit, you use core muscles in order to maintain balance & good posture. The core muscles are involved in all functional movements (such as flexion and rotation), maintaining good posture, stabilizing each segment of your body and absorbing shocks for the whole body.
The Core And Flexibility
Besides enabling or supporting certain physical movements, a stronger core is critical for flexibility, strength, & injury avoidance. Flexibility enables you to move joints through a range of motion. While weak or tight muscles impair flexibility, strong muscles improve flexibility.
In older adults and seniors, stiff (tight & less flexible) hamstrings and hip flexor muscles generally affect core muscles, including those in your lower back, buttocks and pelvis.
The Core And Balance
It’s an unfortunate reality that, as your body ages, your muscle mass & strength decline, flexibility reduces, and your balancing abilities deteriorate. All these factors increase the risk of falling.
To reduce the risk of falling and perform daily-life routine physical activities with ease, you need a stronger core (mid-section). And you can strengthen your core (middle) with regular core muscle exercises. Core strengthening exercises, especially for seniors can promote healthier, more mobile independence for elderly people.
Strengthening Core Muscles For Seniors
Read on for the best core strengthening exercises for seniors that the seniors must include in their exercise program to strengthen their midsection & core.
If you are new to exercise, or suffering from physical limitations like muscle or any joint problem or a chronic disease, talk to your doctor before starting core strengthening exercises or for that matter any other exercise program.
Seated Side Bends To Strengthen Core Muscles
This exercise works on the oblique muscles that are found along the sides of your trunk. These muscles help bending sideways and in painless, smooth rotation of your body. Side bends exercise is an effective way to strengthen your oblique muscles and increase range of motion.
How to do it:
Start Position: Sit up tall, with a straight spine, on a sturdy chair with your feet flat on the floor. Put your right hand behind your head and the left arm outstretched, reaching towards the floor. This is your start position.
Movement: While tightening your abdominal muscles by drawing your belly button back toward your spine, mimic the motion of reaching toward the floor by leaning over to your left side – as though you’re going to touch the floor. Remember that your right buttock remains planted to the chair and feet flat on the floor throughout the movement. Make sure not to allow your chest fall forward. Hold the stretch for 1 to 2 seconds, and then return to the start position. Switch and repeat on the other side.
Repeat for 5 to 10 times on every side.
Bridge – Core Muscle Exercise For Seniors
Bridge exercises help in strengthening posterior chain, an integral part of the core, including glutes, hips, low back, and abs.
This will keep your spine and disks properly aligned, enabling you to move freely without pain.
How to do it:
Start Position: Lie flat on your back with legs bent at a 90-degree angle to the floor and your feet flat on the floor. This is your start position.
Movement: Tighten your core and push your hips toward the sky until a straight line is formed from all the way to your chest & shoulders. Do not crunch your neck by shrugging your shoulders up toward your ears or arch your back. Hold at the top position for 2-3 breaths, and then slowly to the start position. This completes one rep. Repeat for desired number of reps (5 to 10 reps) as you breath normally.
Watch this video to learn how to do Bridge Exercise:
Superman – Core Strengthening For Senior
I recommend for seniors to begin with lifting one arm and the opposite leg, and then gradually progress to lifting both arms and legs.
How to do it:
Start Position: Place yoga or a regular mat flat on the floor for cushioning. Lie facedown with arms outstretched in front of you.
Movement: Raise your head along with left arm and right leg in tandem, about two inches off the floor. During this movement, make sure to squeeze your glutes to help you tighten your core and remove some of the pressure off your low back. Return to start position and repeat the process on the opposite side. Do 5 reps on each side.
Tip: If you find this difficult, try with lifting only your arms, and then gradually incorporate the legs as you build up your strength.
Watch this video to learn how to do Superman Exercise:
Dead Bug For Strengthening Core
The dead bug exercise is an incredible way to strengthen entire core including your stability muscles and obliques that are located along the sides. Unlike many other ab exercises, it doesn’t put strain on the lower back.
How To Do It?
Start Position: Lie flat on your back on the floor with arms held out in front of you reaching straight up toward the ceiling. Then raise your legs up with your knees bent at 90-degree angles. This is start position.
Tip: Remember to keep your low back as flat and close to the floor as possible, both for best results and safety.
Movement: Slowly lower your right leg and left arm at the same time, until your leg & arm are just above the floor. Make sure not to raise your back off the floor & keep breathing normally. Then slowly return to the start position & repeat the movement with the opposite limbs. Repeat for five to ten reps on each side or just keep doing until you feel the strain is getting too much.
Dead Bug Variations
You can easily vary the dead bug exercise according to your fitness level – simply try to move a different amount of limbs. Varying from easiest to hardest such as one arm, both arms, one leg, one arm and one leg (the typical dead bug), two legs, both your arms and legs. If you’re not able to work on any of these variations without arching your back, it’s an indication that you probably need to take a step back.
Bird Dog – Core Strengthening Exercise
The bird-dog is a bodyweight floor exercise that engages and strengthens your core, lower back, glutes and thighs. It also engages the stabilizer muscles to hold your balance.
How To Do It?
Start Position: Kneel with knees placed at hip-width apart directly under your hips, and your hands firmly placed on the floor about shoulder-width apart directly under your shoulders. Tighten your core. This is your start position.
(i) Practice raising one hand & the opposite knee just an inch or two above the ground while balancing on the other hand & knee and maintaining your weight centered.
(ii) Slowly increase the range of motion until you achieve the full range, pointing the arm out straight in front while simultaneously extending the opposite leg out behind you – forming one straight line from your hand to your foot. Hold for a second, and then repeat the movement on the opposite side. This completes on rep. Do the desired number of reps.
Notes: If your low back starts to sag, lift your leg only as high as you can while maintaining your back straight.
Caution: Avoid the bird-dog exercise if you have shoulder pain or a back problem.
Watch this video to learn how to do Bird-Dog exercise:
Body Weight Wood Chops To Strengthen Core
Wood chops are a great functional movement exercise that while targeting the obliques (the muscles that run up and down along the sides). strengthens nearly every muscle in your core. It not only creates a strong core, but also improves your balancing abilities.
Start Position:Plant your feet slightly outside shoulder-width on the ground with your toes slightly turn outward, while positioning your knees in line with your feet. Bend your knees and keep your chest up and back straight. Keep your weight over your heels and do not allow your knees go beyond your toes. Clasp your hands together and bring them on the outside of left thigh while rotating torso as much as possible. Keep your arms slightly bent but locked. Now shift your weight on to the left leg, pull in your abs in & engage the core.
Movement: Vigorously pull your arms upright diagonally across your body toward right shoulder, while keeping eyes stand on your hands at all times. Simultaneously stand up, rotate your torso and shift your weight from the left to the right leg, while keeping your feet planted on the floor all through the movement. Now reverse the movement explosively & return back to the start position, imitating the motion as if your hands are your axe and you are chopping a wood log. This completes one rep. Perform desired number of reps or for desired time.
Then, reposition and repeat the same movement and number of reps on the opposite side.
(i) To increase resistance take a dumbbell or medicine ball in your hands.
(ii) Do not hunch or round your back during the exercise.
(iii) Do not generate the movement with your arms; allow the rotation initiating in your torso to create the movement.