Are you at risk of becoming a statistic?
Specifically, are you at risk of being one of the 2.8 million seniors injured in a fall each year, just in the United States alone?
You might be, especially if you neglect strengthening the area of your body responsible for maintaining your balance and stability: your core.
Why Strengthen Your Core
Now, you might be wondering how doing ab exercises is going to prevent you from falling – which is one of the leading causes of fatal injuries in older adults (1).
Stay with me, and you’ll discover that your core actually consists of much more than just your “six-pack” muscles. It basically includes almost your entire torso, from the front of your stomach and wrapping all the way around your lower back.
This includes the rectus abdominus (the six-pack ab muscles), the internal and external obliques (the muscles running down the side of your torso), the transverse abdominus (the innermost layer of muscle surrounding your spine), the hips, and the lower back.
As you can imagine, these core muscles do a lot more than just look good.
When you strengthen your core, you essentially strengthen your ability to do almost any type of movement.When you strengthen your core, you essentially strengthen your ability to do almost any type of movement. Click To Tweet
Since the core supports and stabilizes your spine, you’ll find that with a strong core it becomes much easier to bend, reach, and twist. In turn, this helps you become less susceptible to balance-related falls.
Studies confirm this, showing that gaining core strength through pilates-style exercises can help increase stability and mobility, keeping you fall-free (and independent) for longer (2).
As a bonus, you might also discover you have less low back pain, since your disks and joints will be cushioned by a nice wall of muscle, which relieves pressure from your joints.
Abdominal Exercises for Seniors: The Big 7
Now that you’re determined not to become a statistic, we’ll take a look at some amazing core strengthening exercises for seniors.
You’ll want to choose 3 or 4 of these exercises and perform them roughly three times a week to start.
It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program – especially if you have (or think you might have) any underlying health issues like osteopenia, osteoporosis, or high blood pressure.
1. Abdominal Bracing
Bracing your abdominals is a simple way to strengthen your core anywhere, at any time.
While it might seem overly simple at first glance, making it a habit can have a powerful strengthening effect on your core, and even improve your posture.
The way it works is by activating the transverse abdominis muscle that wraps around the core, drawing it in like a corset.
How to do it:
- Begin by standing tall (eventually you’ll do this exercise throughout the day without thinking about it – even while you’re walking).
- Now draw in your belly button to your spine while lightly contracting your abs.
- Hold this contraction for as long as you feel comfortable and practice it several times a day. Make sure to breathe!
2. Wood Chops
Wood chops are a great exercise that target nearly every muscle in your core, while also challenging your balance. It also mimics a move many of us do every day: loading and unloading the dishwasher!
How to do it:
- With feet wider than shoulder-width apart, clasp both hands in front of you.
- Next, pull your arms up to one side of your head.
- Squat down while “chopping” your arms diagonally down toward the opposite side of your body, keeping your abs braced.
- Repeat by “chopping” back up to the top.
- Do 10 reps on one side before switching to the other.
Bridge exercises are excellent for strengthening the posterior chain, an integral part of the core that includes the glutes, hips, low back, and abs.
This will help keep the spine and disks in proper alignment, helping you move freely without pain.
How to do it:
- Begin lying face up on the floor, legs bent at a 90-degree angle to the floor.
- Engage your glutes and core and push your hips toward the sky.
- Hold for a beat, then slowly lower until you’re almost touching the floor.
- Repeat for 5 to 10 reps, making sure to breathe.
The superman strengthens your lower back, upper back, and glute muscles, which will help you perform any movement requiring bending over or sitting.
There are progressions in this exercises, as you can see from the photo above. I recommend beginning with lifting one arm and the opposite leg, and gradually progressing to lifting both arms and legs.
How to do it:
- Begin lying face-down on the floor, using a mat or blanket for cushioning.
- Stretch your arms out in front of you, then lift one arm, along with your head and opposite leg, about two inches off the floor.
- Be sure to really squeeze your glutes, which can help remove some of the pressure from your low back. Also, pretend there is a marble in your belly button and squeeze that hard, too.
- Lower and repeat on the opposite side for five reps on each side.
If this is still too difficult, try staying with only lifting your arms, then your legs until you build up your strength.
5. Dead Bug
The dead bug exercise helps strengthen your entire core, including the stability muscles and your obliques that run up and down your sides. It’s important to keep your low back close to the floor while doing this exercise, both for safety and results.
How to do it:
- Begin lying flat on your back on the floor, legs raised at a 90-degree angle to the floor, arms reaching straight up toward the ceiling.
- Keeping abs firmly “on,” slowly lower your right foot toward the floor, maintaining the bend in your knee.
- Return your leg to the starting position and repeat on your leg side.
- Repeat for 5 to 10 reps on each side, being sure to breathe.
If you want more of a challenge and can keep your low back on the floor, reach the opposite arm overhead as you extend your leg. So, as your left leg reaches toward the floor, the right arm extends overhead.
6. Bird Dog
The bird dog is similar to the dead bug, but reversed. It strengthens and engages your core, lower back, and glutes, all while challenging your stabilizer muscles to hold your balance.
Again, if this exercise is too difficult at first, try holding out just one arm, and/or one leg. Eventually, your core will be strong enough to let you hold out both.
How to do it:
- Begin on your hands and knees on the floor, palms directly under your shoulders and knees directly under your hips.
- Extend your right arm out in front of you while simultaneously extending your left leg out behind you.
- Hold for a breath, then repeat on the opposite side for a total of 10 reps.
7. Modified Plank
Planks and their variations are one of the best exercises for targeting your entire core. As a bonus, you’ll also strengthen your arms and upper body as you hold yourself in the plank position.
How to do it:
- Begin on the floor on your hands and knees.
- Now walk out your hands a few inches in front of you and lower onto your elbows. You should feel your core contract to help support you. Be sure to concentrate on drawing in your belly button toward your spine.
- Hold for as long as you can, working up to 30 seconds to a minute. You can also use padding (towels, pillows) under your knees if they’re sensitive.
More Core Strengthening Exercises for Seniors
In addition to these exercises, you can also try incorporating yoga and tai chi into your weekly exercise routine.
These ancient forms of exercise have been shown to improve mobility, strength, and stability in older adults, while also improving mood and outlook on life.
One 2010 study even showed that seniors participating in a yoga program for 12 weeks reduced their fear of falling by 6 percent, while also increasing their balance by 4 percent and improving their hip flexibility by 34 percent (3)!
Gain Control, Live Happier
Even if you’ve never fallen before or aren’t too worried about it at present, the CDC states that as adults age, their fear of falling tends to increase (4).
Now, this can be a huge psychological stressor, because who wants to be worried about their body failing them all the time? And it obviously can impact your quality of life.
When seniors start to fear falling, they usually start to avoid social activities, which can result in depression and feelings of isolation.
My goal in providing these exercises is to make sure you become the opposite of these statistics and go on to live a happy, strong, mobile life free from the fear of falling.
More Ways to Get a Stronger Core
Want more help strengthening your abs and low back? You’ll want to download my Abs Secret Blueprint, which includes 7 smarter steps to get a toned core.
And it’s FREE! Just click the image below to download it now.
Yuri Elkaim is one of the world’s most trusted health and fitness experts. A former pro soccer player turned NYT bestselling author of The All-Day Energy Diet and The All-Day Fat Burning Diet, his clear, science-backed advice has transformed the lives of more than 500,000 men and women and he’s on a mission to help 100 million people by 2040. Read his inspiring story, “From Soccer to Bed to No Hair on My Head” that started it all.