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Core Strength: What It Is, Why We Need It, And How To Get It

When you think about your “core” thoughts of six pack abs, sit ups, and a muscly-looking stomach may come to mind.

Have no fear! Your core is about so much more than looks.

What are “core” muscles?

The core is a group of muscles located in the midsection of the body. It includes the muscles of the abdomen, lower back, and hips. Together, these muscles are important for maintaining balance and stability, as well as supporting the spine.

Why is it important to have a strong core?

Adequate core strength is particularly important as we age. A strong core can help prevent injuries, improve posture, and make everyday movements, such as bending, lifting, and twisting, easier to perform. Core strength can also help improve posture and can alleviate low back pain. All in all, the core plays a critical role in allowing women to maintain their independence and improve their overall quality of life as they age.

Signs of poor core strength

There are several ways to assess your core strength and identify any areas of weakness you may have. The best way to change something is to know it exists in the first place! Some of these signs include:

  • Poor posture: A weak core can lead to slouching or a forward-leaning posture, which can put extra strain on the back and neck.

  • Back pain: A weak core can cause imbalances in the muscles around the spine, which can lead to pain and discomfort in the lower back, specifically.

  • Difficulty with balance and stability: A weak core can make it difficult to maintain balance and stability, especially when standing or walking on uneven surfaces.

  • Difficulty performing daily activities: A weak core can make it difficult to lift and carry objects, climb stairs, or perform other everyday tasks.

  • Lack of endurance: Weak core muscles can tire easily, which may impact your ability to maintain an upright posture while standing or sitting over long durations.  

If a core weakness is identified, exercises such as planks, bridges, bird dogs, and other exercises that focus on the muscles of the abdomen, back and hips can be helpful to improve strength and stability.

Core exercises for women 50+

Thankfully, there are safe and effective ways to strengthen your core! Core exercises target the muscles of the abdomen, back, and hips, helping to build strength and stability.

Though we often think of doing a million sit-ups as an effective core exercise, this is actually contraindicated for women with bone loss – a common side effect of aging. When living with osteoporosis or osteopenia, it is important to focus on exercises that are safe and will not put unnecessary stress on the bones.

It is not recommended to perform exercises that involve a lot of spinal flexion, such as sit-ups, as they can increase the risk of vertebral fractures. Some exercises that can help to build core strength without putting unnecessary stress on the bones include:

  1. Planks: These can be done on the hands or forearms and work to strengthen the core muscles.

  2. Glute bridges: Lying on the back, with the knees bent and the feet flat on the floor, lift the hips towards the ceiling to work the muscles in the back and abdomen.

  3. Pelvic tilts: Lying on the back, with the knees bent and the feet flat on the floor, tilt the pelvis towards the ribcage, and then away from the ribcage.

  4. Wall slides: Standing with the back against a wall, slowly slide down the wall, bending the knees, and then push back up to the starting position. 

These exercises can be modified to match your personal ability and done with no equipment! (In case the video above does not work, here's the link to the video demonstration of the 4 exercises)

One important note, inadequate core strength may also be a symptom of other underlying health conditions and it is recommended to consult with a doctor to rule out any other possible cause. If you have concerns, check with a doctor to make sure these exercises are safe for you and to make any necessary adjustments to match your personal needs and health condition.

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