Proper exercise is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle throughout a person’s life. However, as people age, their physical fitness requirements change. For example, seniors tend to sit more and don’t exercise essential muscles in their core as much as they did in their youth. For that reason, performing core-stabilizing exercises like planks is crucial to continued health and mobility.
Seniors can do planks to improve and maintain core strength, which is crucial for injury prevention and longevity. However, before starting any exercise program, talk to your physician. Additionally, check with your senior citizen center for programs that incorporate regular physical evaluations.
The rest of this article will discuss the health considerations for seniors doing planks, how to perform planks in your golden years, and the benefits of exercising for seniors.
Can Seniors Include Planks in Their Exercise Routine?
The AARP reported that the plank is probably the number one best all-around exercise for full-body strength and tone. It benefits both men and women and works out the abdomen and core muscles, the legs, and arms. But is it okay for seniors to do planks?
As Harvard Medical School recently explained, the average 65-year-old can expect to see 85, and the average 75-year-old can expect to see 87. Three aren’t any official fitness guidelines for individuals based on age. The exercises seniors can perform are precisely the same as those for people of any other age.
Expanding on that concept, Len Kravitz, Ph.D., an exercise researcher at the University of New Mexico, wrote that fitness specialists should consider an individual’s age, fitness level, and overall health status as a whole when developing a program for elderly individuals.
Similarly, whether an individual can include planks in their exercise program depends on the individual. Seniors aren’t a homogenous group, and neither are their fitness needs.
However, before you start doing planks, begin by checking with your physician or rehabilitation specialist. Moreover, you will need guidance if you have a pre-existing condition like arthritis, congestive heart failure, diabetes, joint replacement, lung disease, or osteoporosis.
How to Do a Plank Correctly
Generally, when people think of planking, they imagine someone leaning on their forearms and making a straight line. However, many seniors find it challenging to get on the ground. So, they opt for performing chair plank exercises instead.
Whichever method people choose, in the beginning, they usually cannot hold the correct position for more than a few seconds. However, with a little bit of determination and the passage of time, it will become easier to accomplish for more extended periods.
Additionally, some people find resting on their forearms uncomfortable. If that happens, it is acceptable to do the plank from a push-up position with the arms fully extended and straight.
How to Do Planks on the Floor
- Begin by lying face down with your forearms on the floor and your legs extended with your feet together. (You will probably want to use a yoga mat or towel to make this more comfortable. BalanceFrom makes a nice, thick yoga mat that is ideal for seniors. Additionally, SPRI makes an extra thick tri-fold exercise mat that is great if you have bad knees.)
- Next, push into your forearms and gently raise your upper body until your upper arms are perpendicular to the floor. Be sure to raise your body, so it forms a straight line from your head and shoulders to your feet, making sure your hips don’t rise or sag.
- Holding your head in a straight line with your neck and shoulders, look downwards and hold this position taking steady, even breaths.
- Maintain this position for as long as you can, concentrating on the sensation of pulling your belly button upwards towards your spine.
- Then, slowly lower your body back to the ground and rest for a couple of minutes. Repeat this process for a total of three to five repetitions.
How to Do Chair Planks
- Begin by placing a sturdy chair up against a wall with the seat of the chair facing towards you and away from the wall. (Make sure the chair is a safe distance from other furniture, staircases, and other obstacles.)
- Stand facing the chair and place the heels of your hands towards the outside edge of the seat near the corners above the front legs of the chair.
- Slowly walk your feet backward until your body forms a straight line from the head and shoulders to your feet and pull your heels together.
- Hold this position for as long as you can, focusing on the feeling of drawing your stomach upwards towards your spinal column.
- Next, slowly walk your legs back towards the chair until you can stand upright. Rest for a few minutes and try to work your way up to about three to five sets.
If you suffer from weak wrists, arthritis, tendonitis, or carpal tunnel syndrome, you might consider ordering a set of Wrist Assured Gloves. Their ergonomic gel pads and wrist support provide relief from wrist pain while doing chair planks.
The Health Benefits of Doing Exercise for Seniors
Exercise isn’t a fountain of youth. However, it can be an extended drink of vitality. For example, a 10-year study by the MacArthur Foundation Research Network showed that seniors could become more physically fit in their 70s and 80s, even if they had not exercised in the past.
Additionally, a landmark study by Harvard and Tufts research showed the reversal of many functional losses even in the oldest and frailest subjects.
In that study, nursing home residents performed resistance exercises for ten weeks. At the end of that period, the test subjects could walk faster, climb stairs easier, and lift heavier weights than their counterparts who did not exercise.
Medical research shows that regular exercise is essential for seniors. Physical fitness is beneficial at any age. However, the benefits enjoyed by older adults are typically more notable.
Seniors who remain active live longer, healthier, and happier. Benefits aging individuals experience as the result of regular exercise include:
Improved Brain Function
Research increasingly shows that it is difficult for a feeble mind to dwell in a healthy body. Seniors that exercise regularly enjoyed improved cognitive health. A recent study by the Alzheimer Research and Preventions Foundation found that exercise can reduce the risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease by almost 50 percent.
A recent study by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that exercise helps seniors increase mobility and independence. Volunteers who exercised were 28 percent less likely than those who didn’t to become disabled and 18 percent less likely to have a disabling episode.
Regular exercise leads to increased energy levels through the release of endorphins, neurotransmitters that are linked to pain reduction and feelings of well-being. Additionally, endorphins promote healthy sleep and combat stress hormones.
Prevention of Disease
Exercise programs can contribute to the prevention of depression, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and other common diseases among the elderly. Likewise, adopting a healthier lifestyle can significantly reduce symptoms associated with those diseases.
A Few Final Words
We hope you liked this article about doing planks as a senior. You might consider passing this article along to friends and family members interested in doing planks regardless of age. The road to optimal fitness is a far more enjoyable journey in the company of friends and other loved ones.
DISCLAIMER: The content of this article is written for informational purposes. As such, this article is not intended to replace professional medical advice.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding doing planks, consult a licensed physician or qualified healthcare professional. Similarly, do not disregard any professional medical advice based on any information contained in this article.
- The AARP: The #1 Best All-Around Exercise for Every Post-50 Body
- Harvard Medical School: Exercise after age 70
- Harvard Medical School: Straight Talk on Planking
- Healthline: Core Stabilizing Ab Exercises to Help Prevent Injury in Seniors
- The University of New Mexico: The Age Antidote
- A Healthier Michigan: Get Fit in Your 40s, 50s, 60s, and Beyond
- Health Hive: Exercise is Essential
- Senior Lifestyle: 7 Best Exercises for Seniors