10 Of the Best Core Exercises for Older Adults: How to be a Stronger, Healthier You

Updated 6/11/24

As we age—yeah, I’m talking to you, 60, 70, and 80-somethings—it becomes much more important to work on our physical health and fitness.

After all, we want to enjoy our “golden years,” don’t we?

Unfortunately, many of us tend to do less as we age – either due to lifestyle changes after retirement, lack of ambition and drive after becoming an empty nester, or because we’ve noticed increased body aches or pains.  

I mean, come on, who doesn’t groan just pulling yourself out of bed in the mornings?

If you find that one of these excuses resonates with you then starting an exercise program may be just what you need!

Sitting around and not getting your ass off the couch is going to be detrimental as you age.  

So, you need to focus on ways to stay active and healthy – but where should you start?  

There is no doubt that the best place to start is by working on your core muscles.  

Strong core muscles are the key to improved balance, stability, and overall mobility, which are important to prevent falls and injuries as we age.  

Not to mention, core exercises can help control that beautiful muffin top that seems to come with the aging package!

So, let’s explore some of the best core exercises for older adults.  

I will also give some alternatives in case you struggle with core exercises due to weak core muscles or back or hip pain.

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The Best Core Exercises for Older Adults of all Levels

These exercises can be done at home or really anywhere with little to no equipment.

Chair Exercises for Total Beginners

Seated exercises are good for anyone just getting off the couch, with a weak core, or with balance issues. My brother-in-law’s mom has back issues, so these are her exercises of choice.

Once you master these exercises, move on to the next level.  

Remember, if it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you!  

Seated Knee Lifts

Seated knee lifts are a great exercise to work on your lower abs and hip flexors.

  • Sit on a chair with your back straight and your feet flat on the ground.
  • Slowly lift your right leg up and hold it for a few seconds before lowering it back down.
  • Repeat with the left leg. Aim for 10-15 repetitions on each leg.

If you need more of a challenge – you could try doing this one while sitting on a stability ball or maybe grab a pair of ankle weights for more resistance.

Don’t be afraid to advance at your own pace.

Chair Sit-to-Stand

Chair sit-to-stands are a great exercise for working on your lower abs and legs.

  • Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the ground.
  • Stand up without holding on to anything if you can.
  • Then, sit back down.
  • Aim for 10-15 repetitions.

Seated Side Bends

Seated side bends are great for the oblique (side) muscles. 

  • Start by sitting in a chair with feet flat on the floor.
  • Bring your arms down by your side.
  • Lean over to the right side.
  • Then sit back up
  • Lean over to your left side.
  • Repeat 10-20 times.

As you advance, you can grab a weight for each hand for more resistance or try sitting on a stability ball while doing this exercise.  

It will work your core muscles harder because you have to work to stabilize the ball.   

READ MORE: Why Should Senior Citizens Perform Balance Exercises: Key Benefits For Healthy Aging | Simply Aging Healthy

Floor and Standing Core Exercises for Seniors

Okay, ready to take it up a level?

I will show you some of my favorite – and not so favorite, but effective – floor and standing core exercises.

However, if getting on the floor is an issue for you – I will share alternatives with a stability ball or explain how to do them while standing.

So, let’s get started!

Side Planks

Side planks have to be my all-time favorite core exercise. They work your entire core. It seems easy, but trust me, it can be very challenging!

  • Your starting position would be on your left side.
  • Place either your hand or your elbow on the mat.
  • Your legs should be extended so you are in a straight line from your head to your heels.
  • If this is too difficult, you can go down to your knees.  
  • Now lift up your hip and hold for 15-30 seconds.
  • Switch to your right side and repeat.

Leg Lifts

Leg lifts are great for your lower transverse abdominis, (deepest muscles of the stomach). 

  • Start by lying on your back with your hands straight by your sides or tucked under your butt.
  • Keeping your head on the floor, lift both legs upwards to 90-degree angle. 
  • If this is too difficult, try lifting one leg at a time.
  • Slowly lower your legs as far as you can without lifting your lower back off the ground.  Keep your core tight.  
  • Repeat by lifting your legs back to 90 degrees.  

Repeat 10-15 times.

Seated Russian Twists

Seated or standing torso twists are a great exercise to work your oblique muscles.

  • Start in a seated position on the floor or a chair. 
  • Bend your legs slightly so that only your heels are on the floor. ( to step it up lift your feet completely off the floor).
  • Lean back to a 45 degree angle with your back straight.
  • Twist your head and torso to one side.
  • Then turn back to the original position.
  • Twist your head and torso to the opposite side. 
  • Return again to center.  
  • Aim for 10-15 repetitions on each side.

If you can’t get on the floor or if you have back issues – you can also do this one in a chair with your back straight. 

Always trying to find safer ways for you to take it up a notch!

Clap Crunches

Clap crunches are a great exercise to work on your upper and lower abdominal muscles.

  • Lie down on your back with your head and shoulder blades off the floor.  
  • Bend your knees hip-width apart.
  • Lift your knees to 90 degrees.
  • Clap your hands under each leg as you cycle with your legs.
  • Alternate back and forth

Try to do 10-15 reps per leg. 

Donkey Kicks

Donkey kicks are a great exercise to work on your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back muscles.

  • Get down on the floor on your hands and knees in a tabletop position.
  • Keep your right knee at 90 degrees as you lift it up behind you to hip level with your foot flexed.
  • Lower your knee back down to the ground.  For more of a challenge, don’t let the knee touch the ground. 
  • Lift and lower the leg again. 
  • Repeat with the left leg.
  • Aim for 10-15 repetitions on each side.

Glute Bridge

Glute bridges work your lower back, glutes, and hamstrings.  This is very important to keep your core strong.

  • Start by lying on your back.
  • Bring your feet in as close to your butt as possible.
  • Lift your hips up while keeping your abs in.
  • Hold this position for 5-10 seconds.
  • Then release back to the ground.
  • Repeat this 10-12 times.

If you want more of a challenge, grab a weight and put it across your lower abs – pelvic region as you lift.

You can also include your hip flexors with this exercise if you want my grabbing a resistance band and putting it on above your knees.  As you lift up push your knees out – you will feel this strengthening your hips.

Clam Shells

Another one of my all time favorites to work the hip flexors is the clam shell.  This one you can do with or without a resistance band.

  • If you’re using a mini band or booty band, you can place the band above the knees.
  • Start by lying on your side with knees at 45 degrees.
  • Lift the top leg and hold for a few seconds.
  • Then, lower the knee.
  • Repeat this 10 times.
  • Then switch to the other side and repeat.

You can start without a band, but as you progress, be sure to grab one and take your workout to the next level.

If you are looking for more core exercises:

READ MORE: 9 Of The Best Calisthenics Abs Exercises For Older Adults | Simply Aging Healthy

How to Maintain Consistency in Core Exercises

Here are some of my tips to help you stay on track with your core exercise routine:

  • Set realistic goals: Start by setting achievable goals that align with your fitness level and schedule. It’s best to aim for 10 minutes of core exercises every day than to set an unrealistic goal of an hour-long workout that we can’t maintain.
  • Find your “why”: Personally, I feel that finding your why is the most important thing that you can do to stay healthy!  For me, it’s my 5 grandsons.  When I want to skip my “getting fit time” I think of them and how much I would miss out on if I just stayed on my couch.  I never want them to see me quit – it just sends the wrong message!  
  • Mix it up:I gave you several different core exercise options, and trust me I’m sure there are a hundred more.  So, try different exercises or add some variety to our workout by including resistance bands, medicine balls, or stability balls.
  • Schedule it in: Make doing your core exercises a part of your daily routine by scheduling them in at the same time each day. Whether it’s first thing in the morning or right before bed, having a set time for our workout can help you to stay consistent.
  • Track our progress:  Try keeping a workout journal or using a fitness app. Tracking your progress can help you see how far you’ve come and provide you with the motivation to keep going.

Why Should You Do Core Exercises?

Including core strengthening exercises into a your fitness routine is so important in maintaining overall health and strength.  

By strengthening the core muscles, you can improve your balance, stability, improve poor posture, and give you better balance as you age.  

All of the exercises that I provided can be done at home with little to no equipment and can be modified to fit everyone’s fitness level.

It’s important to remember that consistency is key when it comes to exercise. You should try to do core exercises at least two to three times a week, along with other forms of exercise such as cardio and strength training.

Let me know where you are at with your core strengthening exercises. I would love to hear which one is your favorite or maybe your least favorite!

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