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The Best Stomach Exercises for Seniors
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Sedentary adults tend to lose muscle mass as they age, which can lead to a greater risk of falling or sustaining an injury by the time they are in their senior years. Performing abdominal exercises that focus on the stability muscles, particularly the transversus abdominis and the side obliques, can help to improve alignment, balance and flexibility. The result is increased strength and agility, which allows seniors to stay active as they get older. Try simple ab exercises geared to seniors, like the belly button squeeze, seated tummy twist and pelvic tilt, and yoga moves like cat and cobra. Before you work your abs, do a five to 10-minute dynamic warm up like walking or light cycling.
Belly Button Squeeze
A simple way to strengthen the deep-seated transversus abdominis and improve your sense of balance is the belly button squeeze exercise. Also known as hallowing out the stomach, this tummy strengthener is effective for both beginner and advanced exercisers. Sit on the edge of a chair or the sofa with your chest slightly lifted and your back straight. Take a deep breath in through your nose. Pull your belly button in toward your spine and slowly exhale the breath. Aim to hold the squeeze for a count of two. Complete two sets of 10 repetitions.
Cat and Cobra
Once you are comfortable with the belly button squeeze, you can progress to cat and cobra. This exercise utilizes the hallow stomach move to strengthen your stabilization muscles and improve your agility. Come to your hands and knees with your hands positioned directly below your shoulders and your knees in line with your hips. Engage your stomach muscles, straighten your back and press your shoulders down and away from your ears. Inhale deeply for three to five counts. Exhale slowly and simultaneously pull your belly button in toward your spine as your tailbone and head curl toward the floor in a Halloween-cat-like position. Inhale again, and as you exhale, drop your stomach toward the floor as your head and tailbone lift toward the sky and your back naturally arches. Repeat for 10 repetitions.
Seated Tummy Twist
A twisting exercise, the seated tummy twist is an easy way to strengthen your oblique muscles, which run along the sides of your torso. The obliques protect your lower back and help you to stay sure footed when bending, twisting or turning. Sit tall on the front edge of a stable chair that does not swivel or have wheels. Pull your abs in toward your spine. Place your hands on the armrests of the chair or on the seat next to your thighs for stability. You may cross your arms over your chest to increase the challenge of the exercise. Keep your glutes and legs in place as you rotate your torso toward the right, twisting at your stomach. Turn your upper body as far right as is comfortably possible; stop if you feel any strain in your lower back. Slowly rotate your upper body back to center. Repeat to the left side. Continue to alternate between right and left sides for 10 to 20 repetitions. Work up to three sets of 20 reps.
The pelvic tilt is a small yet effective move that strengthens your pelvic floor, which tends to decline as you age. Lie on your back on a mat with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor hip-width apart. Extend your arms out to your sides in a T position with your palms facing up. Inhale through your nose for a count of three. Exhale slowly, also through your nose, and simultaneously press your lower back into the floor. On the next inhale, tilt your pelvis toward the floor as your lower back rises in a natural arch. Hold for one to two counts and return to a neutral position. Complete 10 repetitions.
Beth Rifkin has been writing health- and fitness-related articles since 2005. Her bylines include "Tennis Life," "Ms. Fitness," "Triathlon Magazine," "Inside Tennis" and others. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Temple University.