The Best Core Exercises for Seniors

Core Workouts, Exercise Form, Fitness

By: // March 13, 2021


Ab workouts aren’t limited to athletes and the under-30 crowd. As a matter of fact, seniors rank as one of the top groups who should be doing core strengthening exercises on a regular basis, because targeting your midsection with exercises that sculpt and strengthen is key for staying healthy and active.

Fact is, exercise and everyday living get harder as you age. And if you want to keep up your running or tennis habit, play with your grandkids, and generally be able to do things for yourself, you have to keep your body in good shape. A weak core can get in the way of those activities. Adding core strengthening exercises for seniors into your weekly routine is a great way to make this happen.

That said, rushing through some sit-ups won’t do the trick. You need a variety of core strengthening exercises to ensure you hit every inch of your midsection.

To help you get that core strength back, this article covers the most effective core exercises for seniors, along with recommendations for incorporating them into your week. But first, we’ll review some key facts about core strength, and the many benefits of core strengthening exercises for older adults.  

What’s Your “Core”?

Photo Credit: http://www.jointventurespt.com/

The “core” is more than just the visible ab muscles you see on display in popular fitness magazines. It’s made up of all the muscles in your trunk, which assist in nearly every movement you make. Key core muscles include:

  • Glutes: The meaty muscle in your buttocks is called the gluteus maximus, and it helps propel you from seated to standing, power up a flight of stairs, and walk around the block. You also have the gluteus medius, which is a smaller muscle on either side of your buttocks that helps keep you steady while you stand, walk, or jog.
  • Rectus abdominis: The rectus abdominis is the main “six-pack” muscle that runs from your rib cage to your pubic bone. It primarily works to flex, or bend your trunk.
  • Obliques: The obliques are made up of a pair of external oblique muscles — one on each side of your trunk — and a pair of internal oblique muscles, which are located just below the external obliques. Together, these muscles twist and bend your trunk from side to side.
  • Transverse abdominis: The transverse abdominis is your deepest ab muscle. It helps with breathing and works to stabilize your pelvis and low back.

You also have a handful of lesser-known core muscles that support your spine and help you perform daily activities. These include the multifidus and erector spinae, which bend and straighten the spine and keep it stable during activity, as well as the psoas, which connect your legs to your trunk and help bend your hips. These core exercises for seniors will target all of these muscle groups.

Related: How To Get In Shape Over 50

Benefits of Core Strength for Older Adults

A few key benefits of core exercises for seniors include:

Improves Posture and Reduces Back Pain

Whether you’re moving or sitting still, your core muscles are in charge of keeping you upright. When these muscles are weak, we tend to slouch, causing back discomfort and pain.

Improving your core strength will keep your trunk upright and slouching at a minimum, which eases back pain over time.  

Helps With Everyday Activities

Strong core abdominal muscles make it easier to do the daily activities many of us take for granted, like walking up and down stairs, bending down to tie your shoes, and getting out of bed in the morning. If you enjoy sports, core strength will help you swing a golf club, run a 5K, and swim laps more easily.

Improves Balance and Coordination

Many of your core abdominal muscles work to keep you stable while sitting, standing, and walking. When these muscles are strong and healthy, they’re better able to do this all-important job, which allows you to maintain balance and coordination without much thought.   

The 8 Best Core Exercises for Seniors

The following moves are some of the top core exercises for older adults. Aim to do these exercises daily to keep your core muscles strong and healthy. Perform each move for 5-10 reps (per side) and you’ll get a great core workout in less than 10 minutes.

1. Seated Forward Roll-Ups

Chris Freytag demonstrating core exercise for seniors – forward roll up

Seated forward rollups develop great functional core strength.

Here’s how to perform a seated forward roll-up:

  1. Sit in a chair with your legs extended, heels on the floor, and feet flexed towards your face. Extend your arms in front of you. Keep an upright posture; don’t slouch or lean back in the chair.
  2. Begin curling your chin to your chest. Exhale as you roll the entire torso up and over, keeping your legs straight, abs engaged. Reach down towards the toes.
  3. Once you can’t reach any further, inhale as you begin to roll back up to the starting position, one vertebrae at a time.
  4. Repeat moving slowly. Avoid using momentum; try to use your abdominals to lift and lower.

Muscle Groups Targeted: Rectus Abdominis, Transverse Abdominis

2. Seated Side Bends

Chris Freytag demonstrating core exercise for seniors – seated side bends

Here’s how to perform seated side bends:

  1. Sit with knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Bend your right arm to bring your right hand to the right side of your head. Allow your left arm to hang at your side. Keep an upright posture; don’t slouch or lean back in the chair.
  2. Inhale. As you exhale, bend gently at the waist to lower your left arm toward the floor. Keep your chest open and pull your right elbow back to feel a stretch in your right side.
  3. Inhale to return to starting position. Repeat.

Muscle Groups Targeted: Internal and External Oblique Abdominal Muscles

3. Seated Leg Lifts

Chris Freytag demonstrating core exercises for older adults – seated leg lift

Here’s how to perform a seated leg lift:

  1. Sit in a chair. Your left knee should be bent with your left foot flat on the ground, and your right leg extended. Keep an upright posture; don’t slouch or lean back in the chair.
  2. Engage your core to raise your right leg. Lift your leg as high as you can without letting your back collapse. Hold briefly before returning your foot to the floor.

Abdominal Muscles Targeted: Rectus Abdominis, Transverse Abdominis, Internal and External Obliques

4. Seated Leg Taps

Chris Freytag demonstrating core exercises for seniors – seated leg taps

Here’s how to perform seated leg taps:

  1. Sit in a chair with knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Keep an upright posture; don’t slouch or lean back in the chair.
  2. Hold onto the bottom of your seat for support. Engage your abdominals and extend both legs out in front of you, tapping the floor with both feet.
  3. Reset by pulling your legs under your chair, allowing your feet to rest on the floor. When you’re ready, repeat.

Muscle Groups Targeted: Rectus Abdominis, Transverse Abdominis

5. Seated Half Roll-Backs

Chris Freytag demonstrating core exercises for older adults – seated half roll-back

Here’s how to perform a seated half roll-back:

  • Sit in a chair with knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Lift your arms in front of your chest to create a circle. Keep an upright posture; don’t slouch or lean back in the chair.
  • Keeping your feet on the floor and your arms joined in a circle in front of your chest, begin to round your back. As you round your back, think about scooping your abdominals.
  • Once you can’t go any further, engage your abs as you slowly roll back up to the starting position.

Muscle Groups Targeted: Rectus Abdominis, Transverse Abdominis

6. Forearm Planks

Chris Freytag demonstrating core exercises for seniors – forearm plank

Here’s how to perform a forearm plank:

  1. Lie face-down on the floor with your forearms on the ground. Your elbows should be directly under your shoulders and hands flat on the ground, elbow-width apart.
  2. Engage your core to prepare. Then, press down through your forearms to raise your body off the floor until you’re supported by your forearms and toes.
  3. Keep your body in a straight line from your head down to your feet. Pull your navel into your spine and squeeze your glutes to keep your hips from dropping toward the floor.
  4. Hold [how long?]

Modifications: Drop down to your knees if you can’t keep your hips in line with your shoulders, or you feel pressure in your lower back.

Muscle Groups Targeted: Rectus Abdominis, Transverse Abdominis

7. Superman

Chris Freytag demonstrating core exercise for older adults – superman

Here’s how to perform a superman:

  1. Lie on your stomach with your legs long. Extend your arms overhead. Draw your abdominals up and away from the ground, and pull your shoulders down away from your ears.
  2. Engage your abs, back muscles, and glutes to lift your arms and legs simultaneously off the ground. Keep your gaze on the floor.
  3. Release back to the starting position with control.

Muscle Groups Targeted: Obliques, Lower Back, Erector Spinae, Glutes

8. Glute Bridges

Chris Freytag demonstrating core exercises for seniors – glute bridge

Here’s how to perform a glute bridge:

  1. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart.
  2. Engage your abs and squeeze your glutes to lift your hips to a bridge.
  3. Hold briefly and return your glutes to the floor with control.

Muscle Groups Targeted: Glutes, Hamstrings, Lower Back, Rectus Abdominis, Transverse Abdominis

How Long does it Take to Strengthen Your Core?

Core strengthening should be a part of your weekly exercise routine. Make sure to aim for multiple times a week for overall health. A strong core takes time to build but will give you balance and stability for those daily activities you love to do.

Read This Next: 11 Strength Training Moves for Women Over 50


Printed from GetHealthyU.com

8 Comments


on April 15, 2021 at 2:44 AM Reply

Hi Thanks for the content. I'm diagnose with osteoarthritis and having severe pains deep in my heel and don't feel comfortable to walk. Is there any exercise to get a relieve ? Tnks


on March 3, 2021 at 10:14 AM Reply

Hi Chris- I’ve been living w/MS for 17 years- diagnosed at 40. I forget about these core stretches- thank you so much! And your voice & presentation is so engaging & positive. 5 stars! Mary


    on March 16, 2021 at 12:43 PM Reply

    Hi Mary - So happy to hear that you enjoyed these core exercises :) Always here to help out when I can!


on January 18, 2021 at 7:26 AM Reply

Would any of these exercises help improve a diastasis recti?


    on January 20, 2021 at 11:16 PM Reply

    Great question :) Absolutely. These will bring you great core awareness and will be good low impact options for core work. Have you also taken a look at our blog specifically about diastasis recti? You might want to check it out here: https://gethealthyu.com/how-to-get-back-into-exercise-with-diastasis-recti/


on January 16, 2021 at 8:40 PM Reply

Hi Chris, thank you for a variety of exercises. As a woman in her 50’s diagnosed with osteopenia (like millions of others) any exercise that causes flexion of the spine, like crunches and forward bends, or twisting of the spine should be avoided. So I’m always on the lookout for substitutes for crunches and bicycles. You’ve given me a few more to add to my repertoire!


on January 10, 2021 at 5:47 PM Reply

Hey there, it’s great content. I was thinking of buying a custom (resurge) diet need your opinion.


    on January 11, 2021 at 11:35 AM Reply

    Hi there - I am not sure what you mean about a custom (resurge) diet. However, I am not a huge fan of diets, rather a healthy lifestyle is what I preach. You have to be able to eat nutritious food, while making it sustainable for years and years to come. Instead of a diet for a month or so, try to find a healthy way of living that will last you for years to come.



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