Our core works to stabilize our spine, increase our agility and make everyday movement easier. In turn, this helps us to be less likely to experience balance related falls.
Many people think the core is synonymous with the abdominal muscles. While the core does include abdominals, the core muscles are made up of the entire torso. The core area consists of:
- The rectus abdominus (the front stomach muscles)
- The internal and external obliques (the muscles running along the sides)
- The transvers abdominus (the layer of muscle surrounding the spine)
- The hip muscles
- The lower back muscles
Core Strength Related to Aging
Core muscle tissue naturally begins to deteriorate as early as our mid-30s! So, the older we get, the more important it is to work on our core strength. Over time, without regular core strength training, core muscle fibers shrink and become less flexible. And, since the core muscles are a main support for our spine, when they are weak, it increases our susceptibility to injuries.
In general, a weak core contributes to poor balance and limited mobility – both of which increase the risk of being injured from falls.
The Importance of Core Strength for Seniors
A strong core is important for people of all ages but, for seniors in particular, a weak core can play a significant role in injuries. For this age group, avoiding injuries is critical, since the healing process tends to be longer and more difficult the older we get.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), millions of people in America, ages 65 and older, fall every year. Even more alarming, one out of five falls causes a serious injury.
While core strength for seniors is extremely helpful in – and critical for – preventing injuries, it also contributes to other significant health benefits, such as:
- Improving strength: Studies have found that core strengthening exercises can improve body strength in seniors.
- Improving balance: Your core helps support your spine, helping to improve balance, as well as stability and posture.
- Making daily tasks easier: The core muscles are involved with everyday movements like getting up from a chair, getting out of bed and climbing stairs. A strong core makes these daily activities easier.
- Preventing, managing and reducing back pain: The older you get, the higher your chances of experiencing back pain, especially in the lower back. As the lower back is part of the core, having a strong core will help prevent back pain. For seniors who experience lower back pain, core exercises will stretch and strengthen these muscles, helping to reduce the associated pain. And for those without back pain, keeping the core strong can help keep their back pain-free.
Seniors can experience these benefits by adding core strengthening exercises to their workout routine.
The Relationship Between Core Strength and Quality of Life
The core muscles impact the way you move in every capacity, every day. As our body’s center point, the core links our upper body and lower body together. It affects how we lift, reach, turn and bend.
Core muscle stability enables us to keep our spine supported during any activity, big or small. From doing housework and playing with grandkids to going for a walk and driving a car, core stability is required. Without it, the risk of injury from performing everyday tasks increases.
We may not be aware of the role our core muscles play as we perform simple daily movements, such as standing up straight and walking with good balance. But, once these muscles become weak, these movements can become difficult. This is when it becomes painfully obvious how important the core is to our overall well-being and quality of life.
Core strength and stability have a big impact on the quality of daily life for seniors in particular – for better or worse. Ultimately, a strong core supports a healthy back, which prevents pain and injury. It also improves balance and stability to further reduce your risk of falling.
So, if you want to stay healthy, continue to go about your daily activities with ease, and help prevent injuries from falls, you’ll want to prioritize keeping your core strong. To get started incorporating core strength exercises into your regular workout routine, see the best core exercises for seniors and run them by your doctor to ensure they’re safe for you to do.