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CORE WORKOUT FOR SENIORS
By Biagio Mazza
Is your body different as a senior than when you are in your 20's?
For sure there are things that are different, BUT biomechanically, it's the same.
However, because of the aging process, we may experience weakness or control issues within the core. The way to reactivate the core is to get back to the basics of core exercises.
So, while we can call these “Core Exercises For Seniors” they are all just basic things that if because of the aging process or poor training, you've naturally had any kind of weakness or control issue in your core, then you will benefit from them. These fundamental exercises can help to reactivate the core muscles, helping it to fire and function properly.
Let’s look at the top three core exercises you can do as a senior, or as someone who needs to reactive their core muscles...
EXERCISE #1: ABDOMINAL DRAWING IN MANEUVER (ADIM)
ADIM is an acronym for abdominal drawing in maneuver. What you are going to do is contract your abdominal muscles while thinking about pulling your stomach up and underneath the ribs.
You are NOT taking you stomach in a braced position as if you were preparing to get punched. You also are NOT holding your breath and lifting your ribs up
Ultimately, you really want to try to leave your ribcage where it is and just take my abdominals and pull in.
Normally, when you are just standing, walking around, when you're functioning in life, the abdominals should be holding you in between 25% and about 40%. Meaning that if 0% is letting everything totally relax and stick out in the front and 100% is as hard as you can pull in, just like you're walking around out on the beach and you want everybody to see you as thin, you want to be somewhere between the 25% and 40% range. This range and position will allow the spine to be in a neutral, strong position as you walk around.
People will argue and say, "Well, you can't remember to suck your stomach in all the time." And we totally agree, but think about it...it is not like we remember to hold our heads up all day long, right?
It's not like we're walking around and head's just dropping and we remember, "Oh, I was holding my head up." No, that's not how the body works.
Many times, age can diminish the ability for us to do things effectively, like bracing our core to keep our spine in the correct position.
By practicing things like ADIM, you can reactivate your core and body to brace correctly, and then your body remembers to do that in a lasting fashion. That's with everything that we do, is that it is really training your brain to continue to do the right thing that our bodies were designed to do.
EXERCISE #2: BRACING
The second core kind of control exercise we're going to talk about is bracing. Bracing is another, yet different type of abdominal contraction. What you're going to think about with bracing is if you put your hands on either side of your waist, you want to think about squeezing your core to where your abdominals go wide.
What many people do when I say, "Contract your core," is they crunch themselves down. That is not what we are talking about doing. That actually creates more compression on your back and can create problems.
So, what we're going to do is get your spine wide. You kind of have to pull the stomach in but you also contract the core in a way that will allow it to elongate. Many times with patients we will take our hands on either side of their trunk and just say, "Push my hands away from you," to be able to get that bracing to occur.
At home, you can use your hands as a guide, and really try to push your hands away from your spine.
EXERCISE #3: SINGLE LEG STAND (SLS)
The final exercise, SLS, which is an acronym for single leg stand. A lot of people don't think about balance activities as a core exercise, but when you stand on one leg, unless you shift your body to where you are falling over to one side, all the muscles -- the glutes, the abdominals, and the back -- have to contract to hold you there and maintain that balanced position.
In addition to that, we are getting some bonus bang for our buck by working on your balance, which has a whole other degree of control and other mechanisms that work for it.
But standing on one leg really does work your core!
You can perform this exericse near a sturdy counter or other surface that you can grab if you lose balance. However, PLEASE be very careful while performing this exercise.
So, these are basics -- abdominal drawing in maneuver, bracing, and single leg stands -- but they are really fundamental exercises.
All of these exercises, ADIMs, bracing, and SLSs, we like to have people practice holding for anywhere between 10 seconds up to a minute at a time.
What that will do is help build up a bank of memory for your brain to be able to help to control abdominal contraction for longer periods when you're not thinking about it.
This gives you a reminder for what the abs should be naturally doing to stabilize the spine when you are lifting and moving, but it also gives you specific exercises. If you can remember, or if you can cue yourself to do these exercises multiple times over the course of the day, that will create a lasting effect for longer term to where it gets easier and easier over time.
Everybody wants to skip over and start doing planks and start doing squats and crunches and all sorts of exercises. If you don't have the basics down, you're going to be building on top of a dysfunctional pattern.
Start with the basics.
Get this down, and then build other core exercises on top of it.
As always, be safe while performing these exercises. Do not perform things such as a single leg stand if you are at risk for falls. If you experience any pain, difficulties, or instability while performing these exercises please contact your Physical Therapist or other medical provider.