A filmmaker by the name of Luis Bunnel once said, ‘age is something that doesn’t matter unless you are cheese’. One could take that a lot of different ways, but there is still a good reason growing old is referred to as a work of art. Just because you are needing more candles on your birthday cake, it does not mean your days of hitting the gym are over. As you get older, you need to do exercises that will make it easier for you to cope with growing old. Being older is different by the fact that you can’t be involved in doing the same exercises you were doing while at 25, and this is why there are exercises designed for older people. A good example of such exercises are the core exercises for seniors as highlighted at the end of this read.
Having a strong core is important, and even more importantly among older people. As you grow older, your muscles and bones tend to lose strength, your flexibility lessens, and your balance declines (7). In addition to helping reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases and increasing one’s life expectancy, having a strong core helps’ improve one’s posture, prevent injuries, and increase the longevity and strength of your muscles.
Not that most of us know this, but no day goes by without you using your core muscles. Most if not all daily activities engage your core in one way or another. When we say normal activities, we refer to activities such as walking, bending, lifting up things, climbing a flight of stairs and so on. There is never any good reason like it is too old to not exercise. Is it too old to be walking? Is it too old to be lifting things? Even though your age increases, you can still enjoy the many benefits associated with working out.
When you mention the word core to most people, they will automatically think you are talking about the six-pack ab muscles. Although they are part of the core, it is wrong to assume that that is all the core is made up of. The core runs from the rib cage all the way to the pelvis and even lower. It includes one’s torso from the front of their stomach and wrapping, all the way around their lower back.
The core is made up of the rectus abdominis, which are the six-pack muscles that we mostly refer to as the core. It is also made up of the internal abdominal oblique and the external abdominal oblique (2). These two muscles are located at the sides of your torso. The transverse abdominis is also a muscle found in the core, and it is the innermost layer of muscle that surrounds one’s spine. Then finally you have the hips and the lower back completing what we refer to as the core (2).
Why Seniors Need To Strengthen Their Cores
It is important to see the benefits associated with strong cores.
A report that highlighted different facts about falls in America was done (8). The report had very interesting facts that might be hard to believe for some people. The report talks about how millions of older people in America fall every year. The age of these people is 65 years and above. If that was not enough, one out of five falls causes a serious injury (8). Broken bones are an example of serious injuries likely to occur from falls. The report goes on to say approximately 3 million older people are treated in emergency departments each year because of falls from injuries. Unfortunately, that is not all; more than 800,000 patients are hospitalized because of this each year (8).
Among the conditions that are likely to increase one’s chances of falling and injuring themselves according to the report is decreased bodily weakness, difficulties with walking and balance, among other reasons like vision problems (8). A strong core helps prevent one from having lower body weakness, improves one’s balance and stability. Hence an important reason for older people to have strong cores is to prevent fall injuries that might lead to hospitalization and other expenses.
Older people should also strengthen their cores as it helps them be able to do everyday activities and makes them less of a liability to people around them (10). Back pains are another thing that comes with age. The older you get, the higher your chances of experiencing back pains, especially in the lower back area. As mentioned earlier, the lower back is part of the core and having a strong core helps prevent these back pains (10).
The older you get, the more bend in your body you are likely to get. The weaker your muscles are, the higher your chances of slouching. If all the above reasons did not work for you, we hope having a good posture will steer you towards the various core strengthening exercises for seniors.
Easy Core Exercises For Seniors
Here you will find different core muscles exercises for seniors. Seated core exercises for seniors are highlighted for those who prefer to exercise while seated and standing core exercises for seniors are also discussed so that there is something for everyone. It is important to remember that you are getting older, and your body is not how it used to be. Before you try any of these exercises, please consult an expert as they will advise you on how best to prevent injuries and other complications from these exercises. How ironic would it be for you to get injured while doing exercises that should help prevent you from fall injuries?
Seated Abdominal Press
This is a very well known exercise that helps one strengthen their core. It helps increase one’s stability and mobility.
How to do it (1):
- First, sit on a chair in an upright position. While doing this, make sure your feet are flat on the ground.
- Second, place your arms on your knees with your elbows locked.
- Then press your palms into your knees. This helps engage your core.
- Hold that position for between 3 to 5 seconds then repeat the whole procedure again.
This is one of the seated core exercises that is very effective in achieving core strength.
This is yet another seated core exercise that seniors can try.
How to do it (1):
- First, start by sitting on a chair upright. Make sure your feet are flat on the ground while doing that.
- Then place one hand behind your head and then take the other hand and stretch it to one side.
- Lean over to the side as if you want to touch the floor
- Then finally, contract your oblique muscles and then return to the initial position.
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This is one of the standing core exercises for seniors. It comes highly recommended for improving one’s balance, posture and the strength of their core. Then it is also straightforward, which is something you need at your old age. It doesn’t require any equipment; hence it can be done anywhere at any time.
How to do it (9):
- You start by holding your hands out straight from your sides. Make sure your hands are parallel to the group.
- Second, start walking in a straight line. While doing this, pause for about one to two seconds every time you lift your foot from the ground.
- To make this exercise effective, focus on a spot in the distance as this helps to keep your head straight, and this helps you maintain your balance.
- Take 15 to 20 steps following these instructions, and then you can move to your next exercise.
Rock The Boat
This exercise comes recommended for seniors who love walking.
How to do it (9):
- First, stand with your feet at shoulder-width apart and with even weight on each side.
- Straighten your hands to the side so that you can increase your balance.
- Then stand up straight, keep your shoulders back, and your head should be looking forward.
- Raise one of your feet from the floor, and bring it up that leg and hold it there for about 30 seconds.
- Bring down the leg and repeat with the other leg. Do that for each leg five times while alternating.
It is required to have someone supervise you while you attempt this exercise. The reason for this is holding a raised leg up for 30 seconds can be hard even for young people, and hence you might fall.
This is a classic core strengthening exercise.
How to do it (6):
- Start by lying down on your back. Then place your feet on a wall. While doing this, make sure your knees and hips are bent at a 90-degree angle. Then tighten your abdominal muscles.
- Raise both your head and shoulders off the ground. To prevent a strain on your neck, cross your hands on your chest rather than locking them behind your head.
- Hold that position for 3 deep breaths then return to the original position and repeat the exercise again.
This is yet another known exercise when it comes to improving one’s core strength. It works several muscles at once, which is a nice thing.
How to do it (6):
- Start by lying down on your back with your knees bent. Try to keep your back in a neutral position while doing all this. Your back should not be pressed to the ground, nor should it be arched. You should also avoid tilting your hips and then tighten your abdominal muscles.
- Then raise your hips off the floor. Make sure your hips are now aligned to your knees and shoulders.
- Hold that position for three deep breaths.
- Return to the original position and repeat the exercise.
This is an exercise that is good when it comes to improving one’s strength and balance. The best thing about this exercise is that one can do it while standing or while seating. We will highlight both ways below:
How to do calf stretches while standing (5):
- First, you need to find a wall and stand facing the wall with your arms at eye level.
- Then place your left leg behind your right leg. While doing this, make sure the heel of your left leg remains on the ground.
- Bend your right knee and hold it in that position for 15 to 30 seconds.
- Go back to the original position and repeat this two to four times for each leg.
How to do calf stretches while seated (5):
To do this exercise in a seated position, you need a towel.
- First, sit on the floor with your legs straight.
- Then take the towel, and put it around your right foot sole and hold both ends of the towel.
- Then pull the towel towards yourself while keeping your knee straight.
- Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds.
- Go back to the original position and repeat this exercise with the other leg. Repeat this exercise two to four times on each leg.
These are yet other exercises that can be done to help strengthen your core. All you need for this exercise is a wall.
How to do it (5):
- Stand at arm’s length in front of a wall.
- Lean forward until you touch the wall. Make sure your hands are at shoulder height and weight.
- Then while your feet are firmly planted on the ground, bring your body towards the wall.
- Slowly push yourself back so that your arms are back to being straight again.
- You need to repeat this for around 20 times or till you get exhausted.
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This is a good exercise when it comes to improving one’s balance. The best way to be good at something is to practice it, and this exercise helps you practice your balance. It also helps one to stretch their thighs.
How to do it (3):
- Take a chair and hold on to it for stability. Stand on one leg with your knee bent slightly.
- Hold your leg in that position for one minute.
- Return your leg and do this for the other leg.
You will notice the more you do this exercise, the more your stability increases. It should get to a point where you don’t need to hold on to a chair, and that is a good way to measure your efforts.
These are squats that are particularly designed for older adults. As people get older, doing normal squats becomes harder and may cause injury. These squats help build leg strength.
How to do them (3):
- Take a chair and sit right at the edge of the chair. Make sure your feet are shoulder-width apart and that your knees at a right angle.
- Now stand up from the position you just went into. From the standing position, go back to the seated position. Make sure your back stays straight while you do all this.
- Repeat this exercise until you are exhausted.
Seated Torso Twists
This exercise helps engage your core, the obliques and also encourages the mobility of your spine.
How to do it (4):
- First, sit upright with your feet on the floor. Your feet should be hip-distance apart.
- Then place your hands behind your head. Your elbows should bend and point towards the sides.
- Keeping your pelvis steady, exhale and wrist your torso to the right as far as you can without straining yourself.
- Inhale and return to the centre. Keep your hips stable while doing this.
- Exhale and twist your torso to the left as far as you can without straining yourself.
- Inhale and return to the centre.
- Do this six to eight times on each side, then rest before you begin another set.
Those are some examples of core exercises for seniors. While doing these exercises, remember to listen to your body. Your body will tell you if it is okay to continue or if you should stop the exercise. Anytime you feel a strain or pain, know it is time to stop. Strengthening your core helps reduce the risk of falling, helps increase one’s stability and posture and also helps prevent lower back pains. Before you start any new exercise program, make sure to ease into it as rushing into it may increase the risk of injury. Make sure to also consult an expert before trying these core exercises for seniors.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 5 Exercises to Improve Mobility for Seniors (2017, intermountainhealthcare.org)
- 7 Best Abdominal Exercises for Seniors (Do These Anywhere ( n.d., yurielkaim.com)
- 10 Exercises to Improve Balance, Mobility, and Fitness ( 2020, healthcentral.com)
- 11 Chair Exercises for Seniors (2020, verywellfit.com)
- 14 Exercises for Seniors to Improve Strength and Balance (n.d., lifeline.philips.com)
- Core-strength exercises ( 2020, mayoclinic.org)
- Core Strengthening Exercises for Seniors (2018, livestrong.com)
- Important Facts about Falls (n.d., cdc.gov)
- Top 10 Elderly Balance Exercises To Improve Balance And Coordination (2020, aginginplace.org)
- The real-world benefits of strengthening your core (n.d., health.harvard.edu)