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Abdominal Exercises for Older Adults

The definition of senior exercise is rapidly changing. After all, many people in their 60s began working in the 1970s, right when the fitness craze hit North America. These folks will obviously not need the exercise modifications that are usually associated with senior fitness. In contrast, seniors who have not been active may be suffering from illnesses, such as osteoporosis, high blood pressure, low pressure or other types of illnesses, that may preclude lying on their backs or supporting themselves on their hands and knees. In this case, modifications may be needed. However, whether modified or unmodified, abdominal exercise is crucial to the health of older adults, since it supports posture and prevents back pain.

The Drawing In Maneuver

The drawing in maneuver is the easiest exercise for older adults. It can be performed from any position, and it does not require any type of equipment. Simply draw the belly in and hold the contraction for 10 seconds. Practice this 10 times daily. The drawing in maneuver activates the transverse abdominal muscle, which is the deepest layer of core muscle. It is responsible for supporting posture and stabilizing the lower back.

Modified Pilates Exercises

The May 2009 issue of "Spine" published a study about the effects of Pilates exercise on the postural alignment of older adults. The researchers studied 34 adults over age 60, who were involved in a 10-week Pilates program. At the end of the program, the researchers found that the participants stood in a more upright posture. While some Pilates exercises may be too challenging for seniors, they can be modified. For example, the bicycle maneuver can be performed from a chair. Sit at the edge of the chair and place the tips of your fingers at the edge of your head. Inhale to prepare. As you exhale, lift your bent right leg from the floor, simultaneously rotating your torso to bring your left elbow to your right knee. Perform 16 repetitions, or 8 to each side.

Theraband Chair Crunch

This exercise requires a long resistance band. You can either sit on the band and hold the end over your head, or have a partner stand behind you to hold the band and apply resistance. In either case, the band is held with both hands and placed at the crown of the head. Inhale to prepare. As you exhale, engage your abdominal muscles and bring your upper body toward your legs. Perform 8 to 12 repetitions.

Ballast Ball Crunch

The Ballast Ball is a weighted stability ball. It is filled with weighted material, which keeps the ball from rolling away from you when you sit on it. This is an effective feature for seniors, who may have some issues with balance. Performing crunches on the floor is often problematic for seniors with blood pressure or neck problems. The ball eliminates these issues. Lean back on the ball so that your hips, lower back and upper back are on the ball. Place the tips of your fingers at the edge of your head. Inhale to prepare. As you exhale, draw your belly in and bring your rib cage toward your pelvis. Perform 8 to 12 repetitions.

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About the Author

In 1999, Lisa Mercer’s fitness, travel and skiing expertise inspired a writing career. Her books include "Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness" and "101 Women's Fitness Tips." Her articles have appeared in "Aspen Magazine," "HerSports," "32 Degrees," "Pregnancy Magazine" and "Wired." Mercer has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the City College of New York.

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