Over 60? Here Are The Best Abdominal Exercises for Seniors

Abdominal exercises for seniors
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Strengthening your core and improving your balance and stability is the key to healthy aging and preventing injuries. These abdominal exercises for seniors do just that.

Focusing on core strengthening through the use of effective ab exercises is essential for healthy aging. 

Especially for those in their 60s and beyond, having a strong core is one of the best ways to improve balance and prevent the all-too-common occurrence of low back pain.

Furthermore, developing strong core muscles doesn’t require much.

You don’t need fancy equipment or tons of weight; all you need is some open space and the will to work hard!

Importance of Abdominal Exercises for Seniors

Importance of Abdominal Exercises for Seniors

As the research into aging has advanced over the years, it’s become increasingly clear that being fit and strong is one of the best ways to avoid the common issues associated with old age (1).

For example, regular exercise helps to prevent the development of and decrease the severity of the following conditions:

  • Osteoarthritis (2)
  • Heart conditions (3)
  • Lung conditions (4)
  • Osteoporosis (5)

Naturally, there are many other conditions that can be prevented through regular exercise apart from those listed above. 

Core strengthening is specifically important for healthy aging, as studies have shown a decreased risk of balance issues, falls, and low back pain in those with strong abdominal muscles (7).

These injuries and conditions account for a huge number of hospital admissions each year in people over 60. 

Therefore, a simple, free, effective prevention strategy such as core strengthening is the perfect solution for many of the issues faced by the older members of our society!

5 Effective Abdominal Exercises for Seniors

The following 5 exercises will help anyone, at any age, achieve a strong, stable core. Depending on your exercise goals, you can perform the following 5 exercises as few as twice a week or up to 4 times a week.

I recommend performing all 5 exercises in a circuit. Circuits are my favorite type of workout as they provide an efficient means to work a ton of muscles in a short period of time. 

Furthermore, circuit training can lead to a slight cardiovascular response as well, depending on how it is structured.

All in all, circuits help you to work a ton of muscles, get your heart pumping, and complete your workout in the shortest amount of time possible.

For this workout specifically, I suggest performing each exercise, one after the other, with little to no rest between movements.

Once you’ve completed all 5 abdominal exercises, take a short, 30-second break, and start the whole series over. Complete the circuit 3-5 times.

Now let’s check out the specific exercises!

1. The Plank

Plank Exercises

The traditional plank is an exercise that has stood the test of time. This movement has been popular for decades, and for good reason.

Planks help to strengthen the abdominals isometrically and can provide a way to gain a significant level of ab strength. It is one of the best abdominal exercises for seniors.

How to Perform:

  • Start by lying on your stomach. Place your forearms on the ground, with your hands pointed forward.
  • Next, tuck your toes underneath you, with your feet roughly hip-width apart. Lift your body up so that only your forearms and toes are in contact with the ground.
  • Tighten your abdominal muscles and ensure that your back is flat. Hold this position for as long as you can without losing form (aim for 30 seconds and 3 sets).
  • Generally, losing form with the plank includes allowing the back to sag or “piking” your hips up in the air.

2. Crunches

Crunches - Abdominal Exercises

Sit-ups are a great exercise, there’s no doubt about it. But when it comes to emphasizing the rectus abdominis, crunches are king.

These can be done anywhere, at any time, and do not require any equipment. A truly versatile exercise!

How to Do Crunches:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Cross your arms over your chest so that your left hand is on your right shoulder and vice versa.
  • Slowly lift your shoulder blades off of the floor, aiming to “bend” your trunk upward. Next, slowly return to the starting position to complete the repetition.
  • Complete 12-15 reps for 3-5 sets per session.

3. Bird Dogs

Bird Dogs

While it’s important to stress the abdominal muscles during a core workout, the back muscles also need some attention. The bird dog exercise is one of the best ways to work the multifidi and maintain spinal health.

How to Perform:

  • On hands and knees, slowly extend one arm forward. Simultaneously, extend your opposite leg backward.
  • At the top of the movement, you should have made a straight line from your foot, through your back, all the way to your hand. Return your leg and arm to the starting position to complete the repetition.
  • Repeat the exercises for the prescribed number of repetitions on each side.

4. Push-Ups

Push-Ups

I would say that if in some hypothetical world, you were only able to do 3 exercises for the rest of your life, pushups should be one of them (the other two will show up on this list as well in the form of pull-ups and squats!). 

Push-ups are an extremely functional movement and help to strengthen many different parts of the body. 

How to Perform:

  • Place hands on the ground, about shoulder-width apart. Place feet on the ground, about hip-width apart (or narrower).
  • Beginning in the “up” phase of the movement, then slowly lower yourself down towards the ground. Keep your back from sagging or arching during the movement and strive to contact the ground with your chest at the bottom of the push-up.
  • Once you’ve lightly touched the ground, or reached the bottom of the movement, push yourself back up into the starting position to complete the repetition.

5. Squats

squats

Squats are one of the best leg exercises around, but also excellent core exercises. This movement forces you to stabilize your spine throughout the duration of the exercise.

Along with pull-ups and push-ups, squats are, in my opinion, an essential exercise to include in your routine.

How to Perform:

  • Begin by standing with feet roughly shoulder-width apart. Keeping your heels on the ground, slowly bend your knees and bring your hips downward, keeping your back straight and your chest facing forward.
  • Once you’ve reached the bottom of your range of motion, stand back up, reversing the movement, to complete the repetition.
  • This exercise can be made harder or easier in many ways. In the picture, he has a band around his thighs, which will incorporate some extra hip muscle activation in the movement.

The Final Take On Abdominal Exercises for Seniors

As the saying goes: “aging ain’t for the weak.” Having a strong core is one of the best ways for people over 60 to stay strong and healthy later in life. Try this core workout and see what you think! Add these abdominal exercises to your weekly ab workout.

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Bennett Richardson, DPT, PT, CSCS

Bennett Richardson is a physical therapist and writer out of Pittsburgh, PA. He has maintained certification as a strength and conditioning coach (CSCS) since 2014. He then went on to earn a BS in exercise science and a doctorate degree in physical therapy, both from Slippery Rock University. In his free time, Bennett likes to read and exercise.

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