Making your core strong can help you stay fit well into your golden years. Find out how to get the workout you need without putting undue pressure on aging joints.
Having a strong core as you age can give you added strength, flexibility, and balance, lowering your risk of injury from falls and sprains or strains from other muscles taking up the slack. Power walking at the mall and yoga in the park are great low impact exercises for seniors, but can leave the core unsupported. However, core exercises designed for younger people may not consider the need to protect joints.
Here are some of the best ways to exercise your core while giving your joints a break
Lie on your stomach with your palms near your shoulders. Slowly raise your head, neck, shoulders, and upper core. Keep your chin level and your vision directed straight ahead. Continue until your arms are straight, hold, and then lower yourself slowly back down. Slow and steady is the best way to do this exercise, and you should do as many as you can in a row – then try to beat your record the next day.
Lie on your back with your legs bent and feet together, and pull your abs in. Stretch your arms out to either side, keeping your shoulder blades touching the floor. Slowly let both knees fall to one side, until the leading knee touches the floor, while keeping your entire spine in contact with the floor. Hold this position for a few seconds. Raise your legs back to starting position slowly, then roll them to the opposite side. Repeat as many times as you can. If you have trouble making your knees touch the floor, put a pillow on either side of you and roll your legs until your knee hits the pillow.
Seated knee lifts
Sit on a mat on the floor. You can have a piece of furniture at your back to steady you. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor. Raise your knees towards your chest until your legs reach your abs, hold, and slowly lower. If you can work your way up to fifteen in a row, three times with rests in between, you’re doing great work on your core.
Lie on your stomach with your arms stretched out in front of you, like you are flying through the air. Raise your head, neck, and a diagonal arm and leg off the floor – about two inches is enough. Hold the pose for a count of three and lower, then repeat with the other opposite arm and leg. Keep your mind focused on pulling your belly button back towards your spine during this exercise
Lie on your back with your legs flat. Make sure as much of your spine as possible touches the floor. Pull in your abs, and use your abdominal muscles to lift one leg up about five inches. Hold for a count of three, then lower, repeat with the other leg. Do it as many times as you can.
These core exercises are safe, strengthening, and can be fun if you challenge yourself to repeatedly beat your own record for reps, or if you do “speed rounds” where you do each exercise for three minutes until you’ve run through all of them. You can check with Dr. Strasburger for more customized exercises to help you protect a particularly vulnerable joint, or for exercises that are appropriate after surgery.