The key to understanding what you need to do to stay healthy after age 50 is core strength. Core strength, as it relates to fitness, refers to the muscles in your back and abdomen that help keep your body stable and balanced.
The core muscles are important because they provide stability and balance for the rest of your body. A strong core prevents falls and aids in mobility. It also helps with circulation, posture, flexibility and even digestion.
The core is the foundation for all movement. You can’t run, walk, or even get out of a chair without it.
A weak core may not only lead to back pain and poor posture, but also can affect your balance, making you more prone to falls and injury.
Developing a strong core is essential at any age, but if you’re over 50, it’s especially important because your body tends to lose muscle mass and bone density as you age.
To improve your core strength, you can try yoga or Pilates classes or work one-on-one with a certified instructor who can tailor a program to meet your needs.
Yoga is an excellent way to improve or maintain flexibility. It also promotes balance by strengthening the core muscles of the abdomen and back. Forms of yoga that incorporate balance poses such as tree pose or warrior pose can help improve balance and prevent falls.
The Right Exercises for Creating a Healthy Core when you are Above 50
You can maintain a healthy core at any age. The key? Know what exercises are right for you and how often to do them. You don’t need to spend hours in the gym or go on a crash diet to get the body you want.
The secret to good health, after 50, is to keep your heart rate up, maintain muscle and bone strength, tone your body and get plenty of sleep. There are several different types of exercise that can help you achieve all of these goals:
1. Do High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
If you’re stuck in a routine of jogging at a slow pace for long periods of time for your cardio workouts, it’s time to change things up. You can try doing high-intensity interval training (HIIT) where you can do 10 minutes of a bodyweight circuit followed by short bursts of jogging or sprinting. For most people, the go-to combination is 10 pushups, 10 squats and a 60-second sprint all in a row before taking 60 seconds off and repeating five times. You can also do this with an elliptical, stationary bike or treadmill, just make sure your heart rate is elevated when you’re doing it.
Planks strengthen your abdominal muscles, which support your lower back and can ease pain and decrease the risk of injury.
To perform plank, lie on your stomach with your forearms on the floor, elbows directly under shoulders. Push up off the floor using only your forearms, keeping them parallel with each other. Squeeze your abs, glutes and legs so that your body forms a straight line from your neck to your ankles.
3. The Lying Hip-Crossover Crunch
This exercise works your whole core and obliques, the muscles on either side of your abdomen. Lying on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, cross your left ankle over your right knee. Place your hands behind your head and bring your left elbow toward the right knee, crunching up to complete one rep. Do a set of 15 reps, then switch sides.
Lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, cross your right ankle directly over your left thigh. Extend both arms out to the side. With your abs engaged, lift up your hips and bring them toward your chest until you feel a slight stretch in your back and glutes. Hold for 30 seconds; release down and repeat on the other side.
5. Side Plank Lift
From a forearm side plank with abs engaged and body in a straight line from head to heels, lift your top arm and leg as high as possible without losing the alignment of your torso. Pause; return to start for one rep. Do eight reps; switch sides and repeat.
6. Dead Insects
The dead insect strengthens the core, improves balance and builds stability.
Lie face up on the floor with arms extended overhead on the floor and legs extended. Simultaneously lift arms and legs about six inches off the floor, keeping legs straight and core engaged. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, lower and repeat two to four times.
7. Bird Dogs
This exercise works on strengthening your core as well as stretching your hamstrings and lower back. You can’t do this exercise without strengthening your core.
Start on your hands and knees with your wrists under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Keeping your spine in a neutral position, raise your right arm off the ground until it is in line with your body and hold for two seconds while simultaneously raising and extending the left leg off the ground until it is parallel with the torso, hold for two seconds and then lower back down, tapping the knee to the ground before repeating on both sides for 12 reps total (six per side) for three sets. Make sure to keep a neutral spine position so that you don’t hyperextend or hyperflex through the lumbar spine (low back).
8. Pelvic Tilt
The pelvic tilt is a core exercise that helps you to understand how your spine works. Pelvic tilts are a great way to get your back moving again after a day sitting. Most of us spend a lot of time sitting and our backs can become stiff and sore from prolonged inactivity. The pelvis tilt exercise is simple and requires minimal effort, but it can be very effective for reducing back pain, strengthening the abs and generally helping your posture.
This exercise targets the lower back and is suitable for people with weak or inflexible muscles in that area. It’s also good for older people who want to improve their flexibility, posture and balance.
To do it, lie on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Flatten your back against the floor by tightening your abdominal muscles and pressing down with your feet. Hold for five seconds, relax, and repeat 10 times.
I hope this article has given you a few good ideas for working on your core strength, especially if you are over 50. It is never too late to start exercising and improving your health. Best of luck!