Elderly-Friendly Core Muscle Workouts to Improve Mobility and Joint Health

Gyms are making a comeback as popular destinations since the COVID-19 lockdowns have been lifted. People of all ages can benefit from regular exercise—including core muscle training—in a gym environment. Though some may think such deep, core exercise is reserved for the young—it is of great benefit to older adults as well.

Xu Dongying, a Taiwanese fitness coach, demonstrates how older people can safely and effectively train the core muscle group—out at the gym or at home.

Without regular attention, our core muscles can begin to deteriorate as early as our 30s. Mr. Xu’s exercises will improve back, shoulder, and neck pain and heighten body movement fluidity, thus allowing people to enjoy a better quality of life without injury as they age.

Once the core muscles have begun to deteriorate, movements such as getting up from a chair or the floor, climbing the stairs, or even turning over in bed can become more of a challenge. The more challenging movement becomes, the less inclined we are to put ourselves into positions that are difficult to arise from and thus begins a pattern of muscular decline.

What Are the Core Muscles?

The strength of the human core muscle group is similar to a car’s airbag device. In unexpected accidents and quick movements, the core muscles kick into action, preventing us from being injured.

Mr. Xu has a 76-year-old student who once slipped in a bathtub and fell. While falling, his immediate core muscle training response was to curl up to protect his head from hitting the ground. Simultaneously, he clenched the muscles of his buttocks to protect his hip joints and spine from being damaged. Later, after an examination, it was found that he had no severe injuries from the fall.

Strengthening the core muscle group in a gym requires some heavy weight lifting equipment, such as dumbbells or barbells which can be dangerous for older adults—however, guidance by a professional trainer can minimize or even prevent gym accidents.

How to Increase Strength While Aging

In Mr. Xu’s years of training experience with the elderly, he has found that for many people who have difficulty getting up from bed the lateral abdominal muscles on both sides of the navel have become weakened—a condition that over time can lead to long-term bedridden illness.

Xu suggested that weakness in the area above the rectus abdominis can be strengthened by performing crunches, which involve flexing the abdomen. Additionally, weakness in the external oblique muscles on both sides can be addressed by performing side bends and bicycle crunches. These exercises not only strengthen the muscles but also improve flexibility, which is beneficial for elderly individuals when they engage in activities such as getting off a bus.

Here are three exercises for core strengthening and conditioning:

1. Full Body Roll Up

  • Lie on your back on a flat surface.
  • Bend your knees with the soles of the feet on the floor/surface, hip distance apart.
  • Place your hands on your knees.
  • Breathe in and slowly lift your head and shoulders, curling in towards your knees.
  • Exhale as you lie back down slowly.

2. Roll up Crunch

  • Lie on your back on a flat surface.
  • Bend your knees with the soles of the feet on the floor/surface, hip/shoulder distance apart.
  • Place your hands beside your hip joints.
  • Use both palms and elbows and lift your shoulders and head slowly.
  • Your left hand touches the left heel, while your right hand touches the right.
  • Take turns on each side.

3. Bicycle Crunch

  • Lie on your back on a flat surface.
  • Bend the knees, and slightly lift your feet off the ground.
  • Slowly lift your right shoulder. Use your right elbow to touch the left kneecap.
  • Slowly lift your left shoulder. Use your left elbow to touch the right kneecap.
  • Take turns on each side.
  • Repeat the set.

Exercises for Shoulder, Neck, and Pain

If the core muscles are weak, it can be difficult to get out of bed and perform other activities. Core muscle weakness can also cause soreness or pain in the shoulders and neck.

How to perform a core strength check at home:

  • Lie on your back on a flat surface.
  • Tuck your stomach in.
  • Lift your upper body as close to your knees as possible.
  • Hold as long as you can.

If you feel like your abdominal muscles (abs) can’t support you for long, or if your shoulders and neck ache, it means your frontal muscles aren’t strong enough and your shoulder and neck muscles are compensating for your abs.

Pushups are the best conditioning exercise to strengthen the core muscles and ease neck, shoulder, and lower back pain.

How to Do Push Ups

  • Lie flat on your stomach.
  • Place your palms flat on both sides of your chest at shoulder width, elbows bent.
  • With heels pointing upwards use your arms to push your chest and body up and off the floor. Please note that the use of core abdominal strength is important—it’s not just the arms/shoulders.
  • Slowly come back down and return to the starting position.
  • Repeat.

If the pushup is challenging, place your knees on the ground before pushing your chest and body upward.

Repeating these motions stimulates shoulder and back muscles, relieving shoulder and neck pain.

Improve Joint Lesion

Mr. Xu points out that the back pain and knee pain many older people experience is due to weakened lower abdomen muscles.

To self check:

  • Stand up straight. Inhale, hold, and tuck your stomach in.
  • Allow your back to stretch back gently.
  • Raise your leg.
  • Exhale, lower your leg, relax your stomach, slightly round your back, and lower your leg without touching the ground.
  • Repeat 10 times.

If you find the motions difficult, it indicates that the core strength of the lower abdomen is lacking.

If you cannot raise the leg to the designated position, it may indicate back muscle fibrosis. Common symptoms include lower back pain.

There are three stages of muscle lesions.

Stage 1: Soreness

Most people will only try massages, hot bath, or swimming to relax the muscles and alleviate the soreness. The problem is, that without strengthening the muscles, the soreness will continue to worsen.

Stage 2: Muscle fibrosis

Degenerative knee joints, hip, stiff cervical spine, and lumbar spine are common signs of muscle fibrosis.

Stage 3: Need of joint replacement

It is best to address the soreness and pain early, exercise, and strengthen your core.

Exercises to Improve Lower Back Pain

Knee Bend

  • Lie on your back. Place both hands on the sides.
  • Inhale, bend both knees in towards the body.
  • Exhale and lower your legs without touching the ground.

Leg Lift

  • Lie flat on a flat surface with both arms on the side.
  • Inhale, and straight lift your legs.
  • Exhale and lower the legs without touching the ground.

Cobra Pose

  • Lie face down on a flat surface.
  • Place the hands on either side of your chest, and elbows in towards your chest.
  • Place the top of your feet flat on the ground.
  • Inhale. Press your palms down and push your chest body upward.
  • Keep the elbows bend so the weight concentrates in the lower back.

Leg Raise

  • Lie face down on a flat surface with your forehead touching the ground.
  • Place both hands on either side of the lower thighs.
  • Position your shoulders and legs hip distance apart.
  • Inhale and lift your legs up—the higher, the better.

Plank Pose

A classic pose for core muscle training is a plank.

Planking for one to two minutes will decrease back pain and improve your knee joints.

Epoch Times Photo
Plank pose (Undrey/Shutterstock)

6 Tips for Practicing Plank:

  1. Straighten and level your head.
  2. Shoulders and elbows should be straight and perpendicular.
  3. Tighten abdominal muscles.
  4. Clench the glutes.
  5. Keep your knees straight.
  6. Ankles should be at 90 degrees.

Mr. Xu emphasizes that these are all slow resistance exercises.

For older adults, a slower pace is safer as they can benefit from the stretch without causing injuries.

In addition, slow resistance training can delay overworking muscles, making it more suitable for older people.

Reposted from: https://www.theepochtimes.com/health/elderly-friendly-core-muscle-workouts-to-improve-mobility-and-joint-health-5326804



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