Core exercises for seniors can make a big difference. That’s because core exercises work to improve coordination, stamina, stability, and posture. A strong core will help with balance and reduce risk for fall-related injuries. Adding a few core exercises is a great way to promote good overall health and reduce the risk of injury.
So what exactly is the core?
The core consists of your abdominal muscles, back muscles, and the hip and pelvic muscles. Every movement that your body makes is generated from this area. The core acts as your body’s stabilizer, protects the spine, and works during just about every physical task. Everything from putting an item on a shelf, bending down to pick up something, or just walking down the hallway uses core muscles.
When caring for a senior, your hope is that they stay in the best shape possible. Suggesting a few core exercises is a great idea. Let’s take a closer look at why core strengthening is so important, as well as the best core exercises for seniors. If physically capable, these core exercises can be part of a regular wellness routine.
The benefits of improving core strength
Exercise of all types has been proven to slow down the aging process, so it’s no surprise that exercise of any kind is an important part of seniors’ health. But core strength plays a crucial role in the bigger picture. Here are the major health benefits of improved core strength for seniors:
- Improved balance and stability. Because the core muscles support the spine, which is important for balance and stability, having a strong core is a great way for your mom or dad to have better balance. This makes for more confident and controlled movements of all types.
- Reduced risk of injury. Thanks to the improvement in balance and stability, there is an overall lower risk of injury in seniors with strong core muscles. As you know, preventing an injury ahead of time is far preferable to healing from one after it’s happened. Exercising the core is also helpful for improving range of motion, further reducing the risk of injuries.
- Improved body strength. A stronger core means a stronger body overall. For older adults, that’s very important for performing daily tasks without risk of injury or pain.
- Reduced pain levels. One great thing about core exercises for seniors (and anyone for that matter) is that they help strengthen the lower back. Since lower back pain is quite common among seniors, core exercises are a great way to stretch and strengthen the back muscles in order to prevent a lot of that pain from the outset.
- Improving the ease of daily tasks. A weak core can make even the simplest of tasks more difficult, like standing up or getting out of bed in the morning. A strong core, on the other hand, makes almost any movement easier.
Core strengthening is important for everything from increased mobility and better body strength to reduced pain levels and improved balance. So, what specific core exercises for seniors strengthen their core muscles?
The Best Core Exercises for Seniors
What’s great about core strengthening is that you don’t need expensive equipment or a gym membership to work out those muscles. Your body’s own mass can be used as a counterweight. This is extremely effective for core strengthening, and it can all be done from the comfort of home. During a pandemic, that is an added plus of course!
Let’s take a look at five easy exercises that seniors can use to improve core strength: Side bends, leg lifts, the Superman, wood chops, and the bridge.
The goal of side bends is to strengthen the oblique muscles, which are located along the sides of the torso. These muscles aid in rotation of the body and in bending sideways.
1. Sit in a chair, feet flat on the floor, and put one hand behind your head. Stretch the other hand out to the side.
2. Bend over to the side as if you’re trying to touch the floor with your outstretched hand.
3. As you bend, tighten the oblique muscles on the side of your body, and then return to the starting position.
4. Repeat several times on each side, keeping your feet flat on the floor the entire time.
Leg lifts work the lower abdominal muscles for good lower back and core strength.
1. Lie flat on your back on the floor. Use a carpeted area, or a yoga or exercise mat, for comfort.
2. Raise one leg about five inches off the floor, contracting your abdominal muscles as you do so. Hold this pose for about three seconds.
3. Repeat with the other leg and alternate back and forth.
The Superman pose is great for developing strong back and glute muscles, which aid in standing, sitting, and walking in addition to a variety of daily tasks.
1. Lie face-down on the floor. Stretch your arms out in front of you.
2. Lift your head, left arm, and right leg at the same time, bringing your arm and leg up about two inches off the ground. Hold for a few counts.
3. Return to the starting position and repeat the process with the opposite side. (This time, raise your right arm and your left leg.)
4. Repeat several times on each side.
Wood chops are so named because the person performing them might look a bit like a lumberjack chopping wood. It’s great for strengthening almost all of the core muscles, and it’s a good balance workout as well.
1. Stand upright with your feet spread slightly wider than your shoulders.
2. Raise your arms to the left side of your head.
3. Squat down and “chop” your arms diagonally across your body, keeping your core muscles tight as you do so. Bring the chopping motion back up to the starting position.
4. Repeat the chop several times before switching to the opposite side.
The bridge maneuver is great for working out the abdominal muscles and strengthening the core muscles that support the spine.
1. Lie flat on your back, but bend your knees so that your feet are flat on the ground.
2. Tighten your core and raise your hips, forming a straight line between your chest and your knees. Do not arch your back, though.
3. Hold this position for a few moments before lowering yourself back down.
4. Repeat several times, taking short breaks in between each repetition.
Aside from these core exercises for seniors that can be done at home, there are also certain disciplines that can work to strengthen the core.
Yoga and Pilates are just two examples, and many yoga or Pilates studios even have online classes and exercise programs designed specifically for seniors. Just make sure the class is run by a certified professional who knows exactly what they’re doing.
Implementing core exercises for seniors
If you think the senior you are caring for could benefit from some core strengthening, try explaining to them the many benefits of having a strong core: Better balance and stability, improved range of motion, and less pain and lower risk of injury, just to name a few.
Then, try working on some basic exercises. Remember to take it slowly and ease into it in order to avoid any straining or pain. And if you aren’t sure how to perform a certain exercise, don’t chance it. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
For many seniors, adding in a bit of core strength training to a regular exercise routine is a great way to become stronger and more confident, and have a better quality of life overall. Implementing these exercises now is a great way to minimize any discomfort or decreased mobility in the future.
Do you practice specific exercises to strengthen your core? Have you helped your mom or dad work on their own core strength? We would love to hear about your experience.