Rise up. Open those eyes. Get out of bed. Walk into the next room. Reach up to the sky and stretch. Sit down a moment. Stand up. Turn around. Bend down and pet the cat. Make her purr and let it make you smile.
Sounds like a beautiful morning to be alive. Another sunrise, another opportunity to breathe deep and feel your presence on the planet.
This is a moment to pay homage to the core.
All of these simple, yet profound actions mentioned above, engage the series of muscles that wraps around your middle giving you that hug that helps you stay upright.
In short, the core helps you do everything you want to do. If your core hasn’t been given enough attention you may struggle. You may struggle with your balance, with back pain, with continence, reaching, bending, walking, or simply turning around to see who’s calling out your name.
But it’s never too late to make it right, to make it stronger, to help you sit and stand up tall with vitality and grace. After all…
Strength is Ageless.
What Core Strengthening Is and Isn’t
Often core exercises are thought of as a basic abdominal workout. Images of endless sit-ups, six-packs, and flat abs may be the only thing we conjure up when we think about it. While that may be the goal for some, the core is important for all of us, not just the people aspiring for a six-pack.
The core actually refers to much more than just the ab muscles. It’s the entire musculature of the torso and all tissues that support it. It’s vital for supporting our body weight and ensures that job isn’t placed just on our bones. This is especially important for older adults as bones become weaker and more prone to breakage as we age.
What The Core Really Includes:
- All the pelvic floor muscles: think healthy and controlled elimination
- Transverse abdominus: think turning around
- Multifidus: think sitting and standing up straight
- Internal and external obliques: think turn around and bending down to pet that cat. Purr…
- Rectus abdominis: think of getting up out of bed, (and that six-pack)
- Sacrospinalis muscles: think staying upright and rotation
- Longissimus thoracis: think flexing your head and neck to look up at the stars
- Diaphragm: think breathing, excreting, and reflux. Important!
- Latissimus dorsi: think turning around
- Gluteus maximus: think standing up, moving your hips and knees
- Trapezius: think shoulder and arm movement. That great big hug.
So yeah, just a few…
Talking With an Expert
We were lucky to spend some time with Dave Lykowski, the Clinical Specialist and Senior Product Manager of the world leader in senior exercise equipment, HUR. Dave has spent his career working in preventative rehabilitative exercise science while working with the senior population. From physical therapy clients, to skilled nursing, and being a wellness director for a continuing care retirement community, he knows what he’s talking about. When asking about the easiest way to build a stronger core for older adults, he told us about two incredible things.
The HUR SmartBalance!
It’s currently available in senior living, hospital fitness, and rehabilitative centers. Not all of them, but they’re working on it! This amazing apparatus is completely different than all of their other equipment and probably different than anything else you’ve ever seen. It’s an interactive virtual balance training machine.
It allows the user to activate almost all of their core muscles simply by leaning to one side or another. It has rails on both side for complete safety, evidence-based balance testing protocols, a wide and low-to-the-ground platform, and that’s just for starters. The coolest part is it has a fully integrated and intuitive SmartTouch screen that lets you interact with a training game specifically tailored to your goal. You follow an object on the screen and mimic its movement and/or go through a maze. It’s fun and works your core at the same time.
It tracks the progress for each user and even prints out the results if you want. You can pin them to the wall and put your goals in plain sight! How’s that for motivation?
Like the SmartBalance, this machine is great for everyone, including those users with little or no use of their legs.
You simply get on, or transfer, to the seat, and slide a support bar over the top of your feet. You then lock them in position for safety and can start with easy-to-perform zero weight exercises. You can do crunches, rotate for side activation, and if you are able to turn over, you can work all of your back muscles. All this, without having to move to another machine.
When You Don’t Have HUR Equipment
You can mimic many of these exercises mentioned with other available gym, balance and abdominal equipment, just not in quite the same way. You can activate any of the core muscles with stand-alone exercises as well. We’ve just simply found that the high specialization of the HUR equipment for seniors, hits the mark with safety, fun, and precision, like nothing else.
The most important thing is to do something! Let’s tell you why...
3 Benefits of a Strong Core
“My strength comes from the abdomen. It is the center of gravity and the source of real power.” -Bruce Lee
It will radically improve your balance and prevent falls.
Your core muscles stabilize your body, more than any other muscle group. A strong core helps you be independent, mobilize around those uneven walkways, up and down stairs, or pick up a grandchild without falling over!
If you have a weaker core, it means you have a greater chance of tripping, stumbling, and falling. This leads to fractures and breaks, a key issue for older adults with bone density reduction. A weaker core also means needing more help from others. A weak core can lead to the downward spiral of greater time spent sedentary and further reduction in overall strength and stability.
It helps prevent back pain.
Older adults often experience back pain because as we age it takes its toll on our vertebrae. In fact, the rubbing of bones against each other and the extra stress on the supportive muscles is the leading cause of back pain for seniors. Remembering to stretch along with strengthening can prevent this from happening.
It greatly improves posture.
When you have a weak core, you carry a major risk factor. You have a greater chance of developing hyperkyphosis, that overly forward curve of the shoulders, that’s also known as a Dowager’s Hump. Seniors who struggle with this complain of back pain, more falling, a lower quality of life, and a much harder time getting around in daily life. Worst of all, it comes with an increased risk of mortality.
But… those with a strong core have support for straight shoulders and a straight spine, which can help prevent these health issues.
You Can Do It
Rise up. Open your eyes. Get out of bed and greet the day. Pet the cat. Reach. Stretch. Feel what the power of your own core can do. Strength is Ageless. And you can do it.