While some older women are fit, many have lost muscle mass and gained excess fat due to the aging process. If you haven’t been exercising regularly, you may have difficulty performing functional tasks, such as carrying your groceries, ascending stairs or even rising from a chair. An exercise regimen for core stabilization can reverse muscle loss and correct poor posture. By improving your balance and strength, you can lead an independent lifestyle.
The first step towards strengthening your core is to perform machine exercises, according to the “Fitness Professional’s Guide to Strength Training Older Adults” by Thomas Baechle and Wayne Wescott. Machines are safe to use for older women, offering a structure to support body position. The range of movement of a machine exercise is also fixed. For example, use an ab crunch machine set at a light resistance to work your core muscles. Sit in the machine, hooking your feet under the foot pads and grasping the top handles. Rest your upper arms on the pads to the sides of the machine. Pull the handles and raise your legs at the same time, crunching your midsection. Slowly return to starting position. Focus on using your abs instead of the legs to complete the exercise. Perform eight to 12 reps for one to three sets.
Resistance Bands or Free Weights
Once you’ve built a foundation for strength training on machines, advance to using resistance bands or free weights, which require balance, coordinated movement and core stabilization. For example, perform a bench press with resistance bands, which will build your chest, arms and core strength, according to “Exercise for Special Population” by Peggie Williamson. Lie supine on a bench. Position the middle of the band under your back. Hold the ends of the band, palms facing away from you and hands aligned above your shoulders. Your elbows should be bent. Slowly push the band up toward the ceiling. Hold the peak position for a second before returning to starting position. Perform 10 to 15 reps.
Falls are a leading cause of death among people age 70 and older, according to “The Complete Guide to Core Stability” by Matt Lawrence. Perform core exercises requiring dynamic movement, such as tossing and catching balls or standing on one leg, to improve balance and coordination. For a knee lift exercise with a ball, stand with feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent. Hold a ball, such as a soccer ball, overhead. Contract your abs to keep your torso stable throughout the exercise. While lowering the ball to chest level, draw your knee up to the ball and touch it. Return to starting position and repeat, alternating your legs. Perform 10 to 15 reps per leg.
Aging reduces your muscle power -- a combination of muscle force and speed -- at a quicker rate than muscle strength, according to “Fitness Professional’s Guide to Strength Training Older Adults” by Thomas Baechle and Wayne Wescott. Exercises in which you throw a medicine ball can strengthen your core muscles, build muscle power and put minimal stress on your joints. Have a partner join you in an open space that allows you to throw and catch a lightweight medicine ball. Perform six to 10 chest passes for one to three sets.
- Women’s Health and Fitness Guide; Michele Kettles et al.
- Inspire Women to Fitness; IDEA Health & Fitness
- The Complete Guide to Core Stability; Matt Lawrence
- Fitness Professional’s Guide to Strength Training Older Adults; Thomas R. Baechle and Wayne Wescott
- Strength Training for Women; Lori Incledon
- Exercise for Special Populations; Peggie Williamson
- ACSM’s Exercise for Older Adults; Vojtek Chodzko-Zajko
- Physical Activity Instruction for Older Adults; C. Jessie Jones and Debra J. Rose
- Exercise and Wellness for Older Adults: Practical Programming Strategies; Kay A. Van Norman
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