Effective Core Exercises for Older Adults

It is no secret that the older you get, the more difficult it is to maintain a strong physical appearance. For many older adults, keeping their physical health is important, but they don’t know where to start. What are some effective core exercises that work for older adults? 

Some of the most effective core exercises for older adults include exercises like the bridge, the superman, side bends, seated side bends, leg lifts, dead bugs, woodchops, and a slew of different modified versions of each exercise for those who need a core exercise that is a tad lighter. 

It can be intimidating to walk onto the fitness scene being new to the practice, but it can also be just as hard to find a way to accommodate your body as it ages in a way that is still just as effective as when you were younger. Core strength is essential at any age, but it has huge benefits for those adults that are older. Continue reading to discover why core strength is so important for older adults and all the different core exercises out there for older adults. 

© Bel Marra Health

Why Core Strength is so Important for Older Adults 

Your core is used, day in and day out, to help support the rest of your body whether you feel those muscles engaging or not. Core strength, no matter what age you are, is the key to aiding in individuals’ overall strength, posture, and balance. Even more, for older adults, core strength is going to be one of the most important aspects in helping them age well and maintain good overall health. So, what are the biggest advantages to core strength? 

Core Strength Leads to Good Posture 

As individuals age, many fall into the problem of having poor posture. This can be anywhere from a slight slouch to a more severe, exaggerated hunch. Although some posture issues contribute to separate health issues, general posture problems can be maintained through the strength training of your core. If your core is strong, you have a better ability to carry your posture in a healthy way rather than tending towards slouching. 

Core Strength Leads to Better Balance 

Also with age, people tend to lose their balance much easier than when they were younger. This is certainly part of the natural progression of aging, but it is also an aspect that can be somewhat controlled through core training. Having a strong core is like having a rail to hold onto as you walk down steep steps. You are able to engage your core in unsteady areas as you walk or run and this helps to improve your overall balance. 

Core Strength Aids in Overall Strength 

The strength of your core is also something that affects your overall strength. In essence, it works as your support system for other muscles. If you were to carry a large load of groceries and didn’t have a large amount of upper body strength, yet had a strong core, you would be much more capable of carrying them than if you had a similarly weak core as well. A strong core helps to give you more muscle power when you need it. 

Effective Core Exercises for Older Adults 

Now that you know the benefits of having a strong core, you may be wondering how on earth you implement such strength training when you are no longer 23 years old. Even though you may not have the same body as when you were in your 20’s, your body is just as capable now as it was then to change, improve, and strengthen and there are plenty of core workouts for older adults that will give them the strength they need without being too vigorous. 

The Bridge 

© Children’s Hospital Colorado

To complete the bridge, you will lie flat on your back with your knees bent. Keep your feet flat on the ground and tighten your abdomen. Once your core is tightened, raise your hips up until a straight line has been achieved between your knees and your chest. You will hold this for three deep breaths, lower back down, and then repeat. With this workout, be sure to never arch your back as it will cause you to untighten your core and will null the effects. 

The Superman 

© Children’s Hospital Colorado

This exercise has its fun name for a reason – it is super effective. To complete the superman, lay flat on your stomach on the ground with your arms stretched straight in front of you. Raise your head up and then raise your right arm in tandem with your right left slowly. Then, lay down flat again and raise your left arm with your right leg slowly. This exercise helps to strengthen your lower back, when in turn, stabilizes your core. 

The Modified Superman 

© Guy Pistone

Being an older adult, there are times when you cannot perform certain tasks because of your age or your physical holdbacks, which is ok! If you are not able to get down on the floor, try a modified version of the superman. To complete this version you will need to sit at a table and place your forehead on the tabletop. You will then raise your left arm slowly, bring it back down to your side, and repeat the same step with your right arm. 

Side Bends 

© YST Exercises

To complete a side bend, you will stand up straight with your feet placed shoulder-width apart. You will then tilt to your left side and then bring your left fingers close to your knee. The purpose of this exercise is not to bend, but to tilt, so be sure to be very conscious of your movement. Make your way back up to a standing position and then repeat that exact same motion, only with the right side of your body. 

Modified Side Bend 

© National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD)

If you are not at a stable point yet and the typical standing position for a side bend has you a little wobbly, try to complete it sitting in a chair. To do this, simply sit at the edge of a chair and use your right arm to reach down to your right calf. Remember, you are to tilt as much as possible with this exercise. Therefore, avoid the inclination to bend at the waist when you are seated and reaching down. You will then mimic this same action with your left side. 

Seated Side Bends 

This is another easy core workout that is great for those who want to avoid getting down on the floor. To complete the seated side bend, start by sitting in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Take one hand and place it behind your head and keep it there until you reach towards the floor with the opposite hand. You will try to reach down as far as your body will allow and then will slowly retract back up engaging your core, not your back, to pull you up. 

Leg Lifts 

© LIVESTRONG.COM

Leg lifts are an amazing way to engage your lower abdominal muscles, which are some of the biggest players when it comes to having a strong core. To complete a leg lift, you will lay flat on the floor with your legs and feet stretched out. You will then tighten your abdomen and lift your right leg up as you continue to keep your abdomen engaged. You will then slowly lower your leg and repeat it with your left. Always be sure to keep your back flat during this. 

Modified Leg Lifts 

© National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD)

Again, if you would like to avoid getting down on the floor, there is a modified leg lift version that is a bit less strenuous, but still very effective. To complete a modified leg lift, sit at the edge of a chair and keep your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Grip the sides of the chair with both hands and tighten your core as you lift your right leg up until it is straight. Slowly lower it down and repeat this same step with your left leg.

Dead Bug 

© ExperienceLifeMag

This may not be the most appealing exercise name, but is certainly one that will get your core in great shape. To complete the dead bug, lie on the floor with your knee bent. Then, pull in your belly button as if you were trying to suck in and push your back into the floor. While doing this, bring your bent knee up until your shin is parallel with the floor. Keep your core engaged and back bent while you lower the leg back onto the floor and repeat on the opposite side. 

Modified Dead Bug 

© C.A.M. Sports Performance Training, LLC

It may seem like this exercise would not work in any other position, but you would be mistaken. For a more accessible dead bug, sit at a chair and keep your knees bent. Engage your abdomen and raise one knee up then lower it down slowly – repeat with the opposite leg. If this does not challenge you enough, try lifting both legs at the same time as slowly as possible. Slowing down the exercise can engage your core much more.

Wood Chops 

© 3v

Wood chops will likely make you feel a bit ridiculous when completing them, but they are a great core exercise no matter what your ability is. To complete a wood chop, get into a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart. You will then extend your arms in front of you and clasps your hands together. Engage your core muscles and take your arms down in a chopping motion towards your left leg and bring them back up to your right ear. 

Once you have made it all the way back up, you will complete the same motion by going down to your right left and bringing your arms back up in that same chopping motion to your left ear. Just be sure to always have your core engaged, otherwise, the exercise will not be effective.

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