As we watch our parents age and as we get older ourselves, it becomes increasingly important to think ahead to the future, when our health might deteriorate and simple tasks like standing or walking might become difficult. The good news is that there’s plenty you can do to stay healthy and stay on your feet as you grow older.
Oftentimes, when we think about exercising for our health, we focus on tough, sweaty workouts that can help us lose weight or build muscle tone, but the exercises you should be doing to ensure your future health are actually much simpler and offer even more benefit for your overall health.
Simple core exercises that challenge your balance and improve your core strength are the key to lifelong stability.
What Exactly Is Your Core?
Your core muscles are essentially anything in your torso, but particularly your gluteal muscles (the butt), your external abdominal muscles (the “six pack”) and your internal abdominal and spinal muscles (closest to the spine). These muscles all work together to stabilize your spine and power your everyday movements.
For many people, these muscles are underused, particularly for those with sedentary lifestyles or daily jobs that don’t require much activity. Muscles that aren’t getting used begin to atrophy and lose strength. As a result, many of the movements we make every day – walking, sitting, standing, twisting or bending – can become painful because your body is recruiting other, smaller muscles to do the tasks that normally fall to the core muscles.
This can lead to chronic low back pain, knee pain and limited mobility. Strengthening your core muscles with regular, consistent exercise can prevent these problems.
6 Core Strengthening Exercises
This workout is best repeated two or three times per week. You can do the exercises individually during your busy day as and when you have a moment or two free, or you can spend 10 – 15 minutes in the morning or evening to do them all together. You’ll reap the core-strengthening benefits either way. Each exercise is meant to be performed slowly and with precision – this is not a sweaty workout, but it’s also not an easy one!
- Level: Beginner
- Equipment: None (optional yoga mat)
- Exercise Time: 10 – 15 minutes total
- Set Up: Perform each exercise for ten reps on each side. Advanced exercisers can repeat the circuit if desired.
1. Glute Bridge Hold
Variation can be made as you become more advanced at this move, like, single leg bridge hold.
Lying on your back with knees bent and hands facing palms up, squeeze your gluteal muscles to raise your hips up off the floor. New exercisers should aim to hold this position for 20 – 30 seconds; experienced exercisers may hold it for a minute or longer. The advanced variation starts in the same lying down position, but with one foot raised in the air, which puts all the work of the exercise onto the leg with the foot on the ground.
The advanced variation starts in the same lying down position, but with one foot raised in the air, which puts all the work of the exercise onto the leg with the foot on the ground.Muscles worked: Gluteals, hamstrings, and erector
Muscles worked: Gluteals, hamstrings and erector spinae (deep spinal stabilizer).
2. Pointer Dogs
Starting on your hands and knees, brace your internal core muscles and simultaneously raise both your left hand and right leg off the ground, reaching forward with your hand and extending your leg behind you. Aim to keep your head, neck and back as neutral as possible, without hyperextending or arching. Hold for about 5 seconds before returning to the starting position and repeating on the other side.Muscles worked: Latissimus dorsi, trapezius, internal and external obliques, transverse
Muscles worked: Latissimus dorsi, trapezius, internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis (deep abdominal stabilizer) and gluteals.
3. Half-Kneeling Warrior Twists
Begin in a half-kneeling position, with one knee on the ground and one foot on the ground at a comfortable distance in front of you. Raise your arms to shoulder height out to each side (parallel with the ground and forming an 180-degree angle). Bracing your core and maintaining your arm position, twist your spine and torso to one side. Hold briefly, then return to the starting position. Twist to the other side, hold briefly and return again to starting. Depending on your spinal flexibility, this might be a very small motion.
Muscles worked: Latissimus dorsi, deltoids, internal and external obliques, internal and external abdominals, and gluteals.
4. Overhead To High Knees
From a standing position with your feet comfortable distance apart, brace your core and bring your hands up directly over your head. As you bring your hands down, balance on one foot and raise your other knee up to waist height (or higher, if possible). Return to starting position and repeat on the other side.
Muscles worked: Shoulder complex, foot and calf muscles, internal and external abdominals, and gluteals.
5. Crane Kicks
Begin by standing with feet together and arms comfortably at your sides. Brace your core and bring your left knee as close to your chest as possible. Standing in this balanced position, lightly kick your left foot out while maintaining your high knee position. Complete all reps on your left side before returning to the starting position and repeating on the other side.
Muscles worked: Internal and external abdominals, foot and calf muscles, hamstrings and gluteals.
6. Star Balance
Standing with feet a comfortable distance apart, brace your core and raise your hands directly over your head. Lift your right foot out to the side while simultaneously leaning your left arm and torso to the left. Your right arm will remain in the starting position. Lean over as far as you can control without falling, hold briefly, and then return very slowly to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.
Muscles worked: Internal and external abdominals and obliques, foot and calf muscles, adductors and abductors (inner and outer thighs) and gluteals.
If you’d prefer more verbal or visual instruction, you can follow this video below: