Strengthen your Core for the Over-50s
Doing sit-ups for the over-50s is not an easy thing to do. As we get older, we often put on weight, and our lower backs get stiffer. Those who have been through childbirth may have weaker abdominal and pelvic floor muscles, and we generally become more deconditioned as we get older.
The thought of doing sit-ups is probably enough to put you off, but there are plenty of alternative exercises for the over-50s that can be performed instead, and will also help to activate and tone your core muscles.
With the core, you have your superficial core muscles (the Rectus Abdominis, or “six-pack”) and you have your deeper abdominal muscles, such as the Transversus Abdominis. They both work in different ways, but are both beneficial to maintain strength in.
Lie flat on your back on a bed or the floor, with your knees bent, squeeze your bottom muscles and lift your body upwards. Keep your arms by your side and use them to help you balance. Make sure you maintain good posture (do not over-arch your lower back) and contract the deep abdominal muscles by squeezing your tummy towards your spine. This exercise helps to strengthen the abdominal, lower back, gluteal and hamstring muscles. Repeat ten times, morning and evening.
Kneel down on a bed or the floor, in an upright position. Place your arms across your chest, and bend forwards from your torso to perform a crunch-type movement. Squeeze your abdominal muscles gently. Go as far as feels comfortable, and then extend back up to the start position. This exercise predominantly strengthens the lower back muscles but can also help your core. Repeat the exercise ten times, morning and evening.
Position yourself on all fours on a bed or the floor, and make sure your hips, knees and shoulders are aligned to 90 degrees. Keep a gentle curve in your lower back. Draw your tummy upwards, towards your spine. While you are holding this position, try to breathe normally. You can also contract your pelvic floor muscles at the same time by squeezing around your pelvic organs, and drawing them gently up towards your belly button. This exercise helps to activate and strengthen your deep abdominal muscles, especially the transversus abdominis. Hold the exercise for ten seconds, and repeat five times.
Swiss Ball Leg Lift
Sit on a Swiss ball with good upright posture, and hold on to the sides of the ball. Lift one leg just above the ground. Please be careful doing this exercise, the ball will be unstable. To progress the exercise, place your arms on your lap, but only when you have good control. This exercise is great for postural awareness and core control and can also be done on a chair, if you do not have Swiss ball, although will be less effective at activating your core when sitting on a chair. Hold the exercise for 20 seconds with alternate legs, and repeat twice.
Bird Dog with Leg Lift
Position yourself on all fours, and keep good posture. Draw your tummy inwards (towards the ceiling). Lift one leg up to the horizontal level. Return your leg back down and repeat on the opposite side. This is a great core stability and core control exercise to work the abdominal muscles. To progress the exercise, you can extend an opposite arm and leg at the same time. Hold the exercise for 20 seconds, and repeat twice each side.
Always start gently, and progress slowly. If you get any pain with any of the exercises, stop, rest, and seek advice from a qualified physiotherapist or osteopath at Surrey Physio.