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Posted on: June 28, 2019 at 9:41 am
Last updated: June 28, 2019 at 12:13 pm

Age and stress naturally weaken a person’s body strength and mobility. Without proper care, the risk for falls, fractures, breaks, and injuries increases. However, many people often neglect exercise as they age. Life becomes too busy, gyms become too expensive or far away, and besides, workouts take time, something we often don’t have. There are only so many treadmill sessions a person could do between carpools, grocery trips, and work hours. [1]

Fortunately, there are six exercises anyone can do to build their core strength and to help fortify their bodies for years to come. They take no more than ten minutes and require no equipment or gym membership.

The Benefits of Core Strength for Everyday Life

Still, why should anyone take time out of their day to work on their core of all things? To most people, exercise means leaner arms, flatter stomachs, and stronger legs. However, health and fitness gurus are unanimously agreeing about the significance of core strength.

The core muscles are vital for a person’s overall balance and stability. Almost every minor action uses these muscles, including:

  • Bending down to put on your shoes
  • Picking up a child or grandchild
  • Looking behind you or checking blind spots in the car
  • Taking a bath or a shower
  • Getting dressed or undressed
  • Cleaning, fixing the house, and gardening
  • Occupations that involve twisting, lifting, and sitting for hours every day [2]

Notice that people who age and lose their core strength often have difficulties completing these tasks on their own. [1]

The Difference Between Abs and Core Strength

“[Many people] don’t have a strong grasp of which muscles are the ‘core’ muscles,” says Dr. Wendi Weimar, Auburn University’s director of the Sports Biomechanics Laboratory. “So, people will do exercises that they think are working the ‘core’ but are not.”

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This is because people mistakenly interchange ‘abs’ and ‘core’.

Although chiseled abs are extremely popular in the fitness community, they are not a true reflection of a person’s strength. Ab strengthening exercises focus on a few, shallow muscles, while core exercise target the entire group of muscles that make up the lower half of the torso, [3] including:

  • Ab muscles 
  • Lower back muscles and glutes 
  • Diaphragm muscle
  • Pelvic floor and hip muscles 

Core strengthens a person and allows him to function independently into old age; toned abs are just good for aesthetics. However, core exercises could define abs if a person wants that. [4]

“If you’re going to prioritize different areas of the body,” says personal trainer and owner of Strength & Performance Training, Inc., “the core would be number one because everything else branches off from that.”

The 6 Best Home Core Exercises

These six exercises work on strength, improved balance, mobility, and reduce back pain. You could do them anytime, anywhere. You could do them ten minutes before bed, first thing in the morning, while dinner roasts in the oven, or as you wait for an important phone call.

You should use a mat or carpeted floor for this routine.

1.Bridge

Focus: the abdominal region, lower back, glutes

Lie on the floor (or mat) with the knees bent, feet hip-width apart. Engage the abdominal muscles and press the lower back into the floor. Place your arms alongside the body, and pull back your shoulder blades. Take a deep breath and exhale as you slowly lift the glutes and back from the ground, starting from the tail bone. The shoulders and arms press into the ground for support. Slowly, lower back down, starting from the top vertebrae until the tail bone is back on the floor. Repeat for about 1–2 minutes or until you feel a burn in the core and glutes.

When the sets are done, draw your knees into your chest and hug your arms over your shins. This releases the back. Take a few breaths here.

2. Straight Leg Drops

Focus: transverse abdominal muscles, obliques

Lie on your back with your legs straight. Bring the arms alongside the body, roll the shoulders down, and engage the abdominal muscles. Lift the legs up, keeping them as straight as possible. Keeping one leg in the air, slowly lower the other leg toward the ground then lift it back up. Repeat on the other side. Ensure your core is engaged and your lower back is pressed against the ground. 

To modify, place the hands beneath the hips for support.

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To challenge yourself further, lower both legs at the same time. 

3. Front Toe Drops

Focus: core stabilizations, breath

Lie on the ground with the arms alongside the body, knees bent. Lift the knees to align with the hips as if you’re sitting on a horizontal chair. Press the lower back into the mat and inhale, lowering the bent leg until the big toe taps onto the mat, and exhale, drawing the leg back up to the horizontal seated position. Repeat on the other side, about 30 seconds to a minute on each side.

To challenge yourself further, lower both legs and concentrate on squeezing the inner thighs together. 

4. Side Knee Drops

Focus: abdominal muscles, obliques

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Lie on the floor with the arms out in a T-position. Draw the knees up into the horizontal chair position as before, with the knees in line with the hips and the feet in line with the knees. Press the small of your back against the ground for support. Inhale, lower the knees to one side, without allowing them to touch the ground. Exhale, engage the core and draw your knees back to the center. Repeat on the other side. Perform this exercise for about one minute on each side. 

To intensify this exercise, lift the arms toward the ceiling with the shoulders anchored onto the ground.

5. Hip Circles

Focus: hips, breath

Lie back with the knees bent then come up onto your forearms. Draw your belly in and your shoulder blades back to protect your posture. Don’t slouch in this exercise. Lift the legs up and straighten them, heels together, toes out, inner thighs squeeze together. Slowly make a big circle with the legs, rotating from one side around to the other. Inhale as you lower the legs, and exhale as you bring them back up. Repeat the circle in the other direction, pausing in between each rotation. 

6. Four-Point Balance

Focus: abdominal muscles, balance

Come onto all-fours, hands directly under the shoulders, and knees under the hips. Lift the right arm forward and straighten the left leg at the same time, as if they are creating one long line with your body. Hold for a breath, bring the arm and leg down, and switch sides. 

To increase the balance challenge, lift the arm and leg up and bring them diagonally out to the side. Then bring them forward, lower them again, and repeat.

  1. Core Strengthening and Balance in the Geriatric Population https://jrnlappliedresearch.com/articles/Vol5Iss3/Petrofsky3.pdf
  2. The real-world benefits of strengthening your core https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/the-real-world-benefits-of-strengthening-your-core
  3.  The Role of Trunk Muscle Strength for Physical Fitness and Athletic Performance in Trained Individuals: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40279-015-0426-4
  4. Core conditioning — It’s not just about abs https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/core-conditioning-its-not-just-about-abs
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Sarah Biren
Founder of The Creative Palate
Sarah is a baker, cook, author, and blogger living in Toronto. She believes that food is the best method of healing and a classic way of bringing people together. In her spare time, Sarah does yoga, reads cookbooks, writes stories, and finds ways to make any type of food in her blender. Her blog The Creative Palate shares the nutrition and imagination of her recipes for others embarking on their journey to wellbeing.

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