Before we get to know the exercises, we need to understand what core is and why is it important. Let us dive in!
What is the core?
The core generally consists of:
• The rectus abdominis: large muscles in the front of the abdomen that allow you to bend forward.
• The inner and outer obliques: diagonal muscles on each side of the abdomen that help you blow out those birthday candles or do side planks.
• Transversus abdominis: big “corset muscles” that wrap around the front and the sides, holding the internal organs in place and supporting breathing.
2. The Back
• The erector spinae: A group of muscles that span your entire spine, from the bottom of your skull, down to your sacrum. They help you stand up tall and rotate your back.
• Multifidus: thin, long but important muscle. It extends nearly the entire length of the spine, helping you rotate you back and side bend.
3. The Lower Back
• The iliacus and the psoas muscles: These muscles enable you to lift your legs and remain stable while standing and walking.
• The quadratus lumborum: deep muscles that help you bend to the side and extend backwards.
• The gluteal muscles: commonly known as the buttocks, help you extend your leg, push off from a starting point, walk, and climb stairs.
Why Core Exercises?
A strong and stable core is essential for everything! Think of your core as the foundation of a building. If you build a solid foundation, the building will stay up. However, if the foundation is weak, it will come crashing down at some point!! Some benefits of strengthening the core include:
• Improved balance and stability: The core muscles help the spine. This is especially important for maintaining balance and stability. Having a powerful core is a great way to improve balance. This allows for decreased fall risk with activities of daily living, leisure activities, as well as increased confidence with all mobility.
• Diminished risk of injury: We all know, that preventing an injury ahead of time is far better than healing from one after it has happened. Strengthening and stabilizing the core muscles provide an overall reduced risk of injury in seniors.
• Improved general strength: A stronger core means a stronger and healthier body overall, creating ease of movement with normal tasks. The ability to get up off the floor, get into and out of bed, get in and out of a car, or walk from the parking lot to the grocery store require some core strength. This becomes crucial as we get older.
• Reduced pain: According to the CDC, Low Back Pain is the most common cause of global disability than any other condition. Strengthening the core muscles can help reduce low back pain not only in seniors but in all individuals.
Best Core Exercises
Target: To strengthen the oblique muscles, which are found along the sides of the abdomen. These muscles assist in the rotation of the body and in twisting sideways.
1. Take a chair, lean it against a wall and sit. Make sure that your feet are flat on the floor. Put one hand behind your head and stretch the other hand out to the side. Sit up nice and tall.
2. Bend to the side, as if you are aiming to touch the floor with your hand. Palm side should face down.
3. As you are bending, tighten the oblique muscles to the side of your body and then return to the starting position.
4. Repeat 10 times on each side, making sure that your feet are flat on the floor for the entire time.
Target: Lower abdominal muscles to get good lower back and core strength.
1. Lie down on your back with your legs straight. Use an exercise mat. You can also do this on your bed however you must make sure you have a very firm mattress.
2. Lift one leg about five inches above the floor, tightening your abdominal muscles as you do so. Maintain this posture for about three seconds. Lower the leg.
3. Repeat with your other leg and alternate back and forth.
Target: It is excellent for developing strong back and glute muscles, which help in standing, sitting, and walking in addition to several daily tasks.
1. Rest face-down on a flat surface. Pull your arms out in front of you.
2. Raise your head, left arm, and right leg at the same time, raising your arm and leg up about two inches off the ground.
3. Return to the initial state and repeat on the opposite side. (This time, lift your right arm and your left leg.)
4. Repeat few times on each side. Build up to 10 times on each side.
Target: It is exceptional for strengthening nearly all the core muscles plus, it is s a good balance workout!
1. Stand straight with your feet slightly wider than your shoulders.
2. Lift up both arms to the left side of your head.
3. Bring your forearms downwards and diagonally across your body (as if chopping wood). Tighten your core muscles firm as you do so.
4. Repeat the chop 10 times before switching to the opposite side.
Target: This is exceptional for strengthening abdominal muscles, the entire spine as well as the gluteal muscles.
1. Lie on your back and bend both knees so that your feet are flat on the mat.
2. Tighten your core and lift your hips off the mat, making a straight line between your chest and your knees. Squeeze your glutes! Do not arch your back.
3. Maintain position for 2 seconds, then slowly lower your hips and return to starting position.
4. Repeat few times, taking short pauses in between every repetition. Build up to 10 times.
Core exercises for seniors are excellent because they enable older adults to maintain their energy, improve strength, balance and improve quality of life. Honestly, core exercises are great at any age. If you are breathing, you need to be strengthening your core!
You can train your core at home for a few minutes a day, starting at 3 days a week and working up to 5 days a week.
Try working on some basic exercises. Remember to take it slowly and ease into it to avoid any straining or pain.
Always consult with your physician before starting any exercise program. Consult with a physical therapist who make sure you are performing exercises using appropriate technique in order to avoid injury.