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Why Strengthen My Core After 50?

With so much information available out there regarding health, diet, and physical exercise, it can become a full-time job trying to sift through it all. And to be honest, at this point in our lives, time is not a commodity we want to waste trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Besides, everyone claims to have found the elixir of life or secret co-efficient to the ultimate youth-enhancing equation. Still, strangely enough, all their information differs so dramatically from one another it makes you wonder. Wouldn’t it be easier if all of these professionals sat down together and came up with one fool-proof plan for all? Unfortunately, this wouldn’t work because we are all unique, requiring different components to help us reach the healthiest version of ourselves.


a 50 year old woman in gym clothes showing her abs
Why strengthen my core after 50?
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Strengthen my core after 50

Good core strength is hugely beneficial to all of us because of the one primary thing we have in common – the requirement for balance. Of course, good core strength is about more than just balance. But, if you are still a little skeptical, we totally understand. After all, who’s to say this isn’t another passing fad that doesn’t work, hidden within the paragraphs of a fitness article! So with that in mind, we thought it would be good to start with an exciting study we found on maintaining core strength and the benefits this can have for our aging bodies. According to a some sports medicine studies, the loss in reflex ability and core muscle strength (rectus abdominis, transversus abdominis, and external obliques) in the elderly can lead to a reduced ability to perform basic daily tasks. Conversely, by strengthening the core muscles, these functional abilities can be enhanced and thus promote prolonged independence and enhance mental health. Their study also showed that core strength could be improved in as little as four weeks. And while more study is required, the results were auspicious and indicated significant improvements in balance and posture in their experimental group of 50+ers.


In addition to balance, core strength will…

-improve agility

-increase your fitness levels

-reduce fatigue

-prevent injury

-promote excellent posture


In summary, core strength is imperative for a healthy and active lifestyle, and more importantly, it keeps us independent for longer!


Recap on core strength

-It aids in balance and stability

-Prevent falls/ injury

-Reduces pain and fatigue

-Keeps the pelvic floor strong

-Improves posture

-Enhances agility and movement


Building Your ‘Fountain of Youth’

Who would have thought that exercise would be the key to a youthful existence! In fact, your cardiovascular age can be reduced by 5-10 years simply by exercising regularly. That’s an impressive 20% improvement in cardiovascular health. So move over all those age-defying face creams promising a youthful appearance; now you can have the real thing from the inside out by incorporating core strengthening exercises into your daily routine.


Regular core strength exercises not only improve heart health but can have additional health benefits too. Here are some of the main ones:


-Preserves agility to complete daily tasks and, therefore, independence.

-Improves mental health and prevents depression.

-Slows age-related cognitive decline.

-Reduces the risk of falls and injuries.

-Improves rates of recovery after injury.

-Improves and maintains muscular strength.

-Maintains bone density, slowing the progress of osteoporosis.


When core strengthening exercises are coupled with the following types of exercise, you literally tap into your inner fountain of youth thus reaping the benefits of an active, pain-free, and healthy life.


Aerobics

These should be activities that increase your heart rate and breathing—for example, swimming, jogging, stationary bike, Zumba, or dancing.


Strength Training

Resistance training or weightlifting can help develop muscle strength and bone density. For example, you could use resistance bands, free weights, or join a weightlifting class.


Core Strengthening

Core strengthening exercises focus on balance and flexibility, which allow you to remain steady while walking and enhance muscles and joint mobility. For example, balance and stretch classes, Tai chi, yoga, and balance pads are excellent ways to promote greater core strength.


The recommended recipe for successfully tapping into your inner fountain of youth is 3-5 sessions of aerobic exercise per week, topped with additional flexibility, balance, and strength training.


How a Strong Core Improves Your Life

As a 50+ something, you may find that certain tasks you used to complete with ease have suddenly become challenging and, at times, downright tiring! It can be very frustrating when fatigue or pain hampers us from living a normal healthy life. It only gets worse if you’re not willing to improve your core strength and start working towards strong abdominal, hip, and back muscles. By now, you have probably started to see a direct link between your core strength and the quality of your life.


a woman doing a side plank exercise in the gym
There is a better quality of life expected with a robust core.

However, the converse is also true. This is because your core is pivotal to every movement you make. Think about this for a minute. Most of the time, we don’t give much thought to the movements we make as they are often unconsciously executed, much like breathing. For instance, you don’t stop and think, I need to bend to pick up that pencil, or I need to stretch to reach that book on the wardrobe; you just do it. Your brain knows how to get the relevant muscles moving to complete these movements without you actively thinking about it.


However, suppose those muscles are stiff, lack flexibility, and are weak. In that case, those movements will require a large amount of effort, which may result in injury or pain, especially as we get older.


A weak or inflexible core directly impacts the function of our extremities (arms and legs). As a result, it drains the ‘oomph’ or power we need for many of the movements we need to execute to live an active life. Let’s take a more detailed look at the benefits of a strong core and how it can improve your life:


Eleven Benefits of a Strong Core

1. Slows Aging Process

Core strength is essential for a stabilized and balanced body. It also improves our posture and prevents back pain and falls while keeping us agile and mobile for longer. No walkers or canes for as long as possible, please!


2. Supports Strength Training

Strength training provides us with full-body muscle strength, but it requires a strong core to increase our muscle strength. The stronger your core, the more weight can be lifted, increasing overall strength.


3. Power Boosting

Athletic movements such as throwing a ball, swinging a racket or bat, and even lifting everyday objects require good abdominal muscle strength. The stronger your core, the easier these movements will be. See our article on core exercises.


4. Pain Reduction

The older we get, the more susceptible we are to back pain; this is often exacerbated by sitting for long periods. A strong core can strengthen your spine, support your lower back and thus improve your posture and balance, reducing pain felt by movement or lack thereof!


5. Supports Everyday Movements

Your core is the base from which all your movements radiate; therefore, simple actions like standing while washing the dishes, vacuuming, bending to pet the dog, and even walking around the supermarket can all be challenging with a weak core. On the other hand, a strong core means improved functional fitness!


6. Improved Sexual Performance

Enjoying a healthy sex life is crucial to a well-balanced and active life! Some sexual positions require excellent core power and flexibility. Just because we are over 50 doesn’t mean our sex lives need to be over as well!


7. Armor for the Body’s Organs

The abdominal wall is the protective shield between the outside world and your liver, spleen, and kidneys. A stronger core means protection from damage and external forces.


8. Stability / Balance / Posture

A strong core promotes stability and good posture, helping you stand tall and remain stabilized while going about your daily life. Good balance means you are working from a stable base making it easier to prevent trips and falls.


9. Improves Running Form

When your core is strong, it allows the hips, pelvis, and lower back to work together seamlessly when running, reducing friction, and preserving energy levels. It also prevents unnecessary strain and injury when running for longer distances.


10. Promotes a Healthy Back

Robust and well-balanced core muscles can prevent the debilitating effects of lower back pain. Often core strengthening exercises are prescribed as part of the treatment to relieve back pain.


11. Sports

Many sports such as tennis, golf, cycling, volleyball, rowing, paddle boarding and kayaking require strong core power and flexibility. A strong core is essential in many areas of our lives; however, this strength gradually dissipates as we age, leaving us weak and sapping at our strength. Even more frightening is that if left to degrade, core strength will continue to degrade, negatively impacting the active lives we aspire to keep and maintain.


Flexibility and Your Core

Strengthening your core increases overall flexibility. You may be wondering how this works or what the benefits of being flexible are to you. Obviously, not all of us aspire to twist our bodies into a living version of the pretzel, but good flexibility is integral to having a balanced and robust core. The truth is they work closely together, providing fantastic benefits when they function correctly. Have you ever reached for a jar on the top shelf and found yourself squealing in pain? Perhaps you’ve felt the unfortunate effects of bending over a little too sharply? Suddenly your back feels as though you’re stuck in a rodeo, and you are the bucking bronco as the pain seems to hop sporadically all over your back muscles. There’s a reason for this, and that reason is a lack of flexibility.


When muscles become tight, their ability to contract correctly is hampered, reducing movement. In addition, this muscle tightness can often be the root cause of pain as they become injured and subsequently prevent or reduce the functionality of the opposing muscle. Sadly, this inflexibility affects many of us as we head down the golden road of maturity. So how do we improve our flexibility alongside improving our core strength? Flexibility can be improved by incorporating stretching exercises into your daily routine. These exercises are great for relaxing and destressing as they entail slow and controlled movements. In addition, these exercises work towards increasing the elasticity of our muscles and aid in the maintenance of movement in our joints.


With stretching, your body becomes more supple, providing many physical benefits. Some of these include improved mobility, increased body strength and stability, better balance, and a greater range of movement.


Below are a few ways that improved flexibility can help as we get older.

Enhanced Strength

Flexible muscles function at optimum levels creating the correct level of tension to support movement and helping to increase fitness and overall strength.


Reduced Risk of Injury

A flexible body can cope with physical stress more efficiently, reducing muscle imbalance and subsequent injury during physical activity.


Less Tension / Pain

When the body’s muscles are flexible, they contract correctly, feel loose, and are less tense. As a result, you will suffer from fewer aches, pains, and cramps that come with age.


Posture and Balance

When the muscles are flexible, the posture often improves as a result. Increased flexibility allows us to sit or stand in different ways while maintaining good balance and posture.


Improved Mental Health

The slow controlled movements of stretching exercises required to increase flexibility can also aid in relaxation. Stretching poses open the body leading to feelings of deep relaxation.


Physical Agility

Improved flexibility allows for enhanced movement allowing us to perform better in sports and daily activities.


Stretching for Core Strength Exercises

There are a range of stretching exercises you can use to increase your flexibility. Firstly, we will focus on the two main types of stretches you can do, dynamic stretches and static stretches.


Dynamic Stretches

Dynamic Stretches are for before exercise when the muscles are cold and require warming up. They are also an excellent way to lubricate the joints in anticipation of movement.


Static Stretches,

In contrast, static stretches are usually done after exercise when the muscles are warm to help lengthen your ligaments. These basic stretches are an excellent way to start regaining and improving your flexibility.


We recommend starting with some dynamic stretches before your usual exercise routine and finishing your workout with some gentle static stretching.


Building strong core muscles is hugely beneficial to keeping us physically fit and independent for longer.

It's never too late to embark on a journey toward a healthier, more vibrant you, especially when you feel the effects of neglecting self-care for years. Rediscover the path to physical well-being. 
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