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The Importance of Building a Strong Core as You Age

Building a strong core is one of the most important actions you can take to improve your physical health and gain independence as you age. No matter your current level of fitness, you will always need a strong and flexible core to help support you through your everyday life. Increased core strength helps you move your entire body with ease and can also give you better balance and overall stability. 

The Anatomy of the Core

Did you know your core actually includes all the muscles in your torso, from your upper back down to your hips? This includes shoulder blade muscles, abdominals, gluteals, the pelvic floor, and back extensor muscles we normally don’t think of when we think of the “core.” Until today, you may have only thought of your abs when you heard the word core, but there is more to the makeup of your abdominal region that influences your core strength and prepares you for movement.

The Benefits of Core Strengthening Exercises for Seniors 

Core strength gives you proximal stability with distal mobility – if the core is strong and stable, it will be easier to move your hands and feet away from your body. If the core is weaker, you will constantly try to maintain your balance when trying to reach for something, which is not always easy to do. 

Consistently strengthening your core can offer the following lifelong benefits:

1) Decreases Your Risk of Injury

As you age, the physiological changes in the body cause bones to become brittle and muscles to become stiffer, making it a challenge to maintain stability. Preventing an injury from occurring is so important, as healing from an injury can be much more difficult than avoiding one altogether. Simply walking in your own home can become hazardous for your balance. Core strength allows you to effectively complete daily chores and activities, your exercise routines, and the sports you enjoy while decreasing your risk of injury. 

2) Helps Keep Your Bladder Under Control

For many, aging can bring issues of bladder control. Since your pelvic muscles are part of your core, sneezing or laughing can cause potentially embarrassing leaks. For bladder control, work your abdominal muscles while engaging the muscles of your pelvic floor to help improve your core strength and keep leaking under control. A stronger core means less worry and fewer leaks.

3) Relieves Back Pain

Chronic lower back pain affects can affect you over time, especially if you have a sedentary lifestyle and are spending long hours sitting at your computer or watching television. Extensive sitting that overstretches upper back puts a surprising amount of strain on your lower back, especially if you aren’t properly engaging your core while you sit. This pain can limit your ability to handle basic tasks like bending, lifting, gardening, or everyday chores. By increasing your core strength, the amount of back pain you experience can be significantly controlled. 

4) Improves Posture and Spinal Support

Exercise is by far the most important factor in maintaining posture because it improves the bone and muscle function that is essential in maintaining musculoskeletal health. The gravity has a pronounced effect on your posture and over time, the back tends to curve forward resulting in an increasingly stooped posture. However, as with most changes, there are solutions available to prevent or reverse these changes and improve our posture.

Tips for Good When Sitting and Standing

  • When sitting, be sure to make a habit of placing a lumbar roll or a small pillow at the small of your back to have an erect posture rather than slumping. 
  • When standing for a long time, put all of your body weight on one leg, thus using buttock and hip muscles to hold yourself against gravity (it is normal to switch sides when that leg gets tired). If you stand with equal body weight on both feet when standing for a long amount of time, eventually your back will sag, relying on the lower back muscles. 

Once proper posture becomes a habit, you can enjoy the benefits of standing straighter and looking better as a result of strong and engaged core muscles.

Remember: Even if you are physically active, you may still be neglecting your core muscles. Whether your daily routine includes golfing, walking, water aerobics or simple household chores, if you want to improve your overall fitness, it’s important to increase strength throughout your core muscles. A boost in overall stability, strength, and/or sports performance, will help you along the way with an added dose of confidence to keep you going! 

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