Now that you have retired and joined the ranks of senior citizens, you want to stay in shape. Among the exercises you will need to consider are those that help keep you slim in the middle. In particular are abdominal exercises for retirees.
I have noticed that among retired people one of the most neglected areas of the body is the stomach area. It may be due to the attitude that now that we are retired we do not have to pay attention to what we eat. Of course, that may be an attitude that pervades our whole society. But it is noticeable among retirees especially.
It is nice to see some retirees who make a point to have a walking program. This is usually a time set aside each day to go to a local park or mall and walk a course or path. This is excellent for cardio and helps keep the body fat from getting out of hand. Of course this works best when coupled with a reasonable diet control plan.
Walking alone will not build up the abdominal area, though. Abdominal muscles are used to some degree in holding the body upright. They are most used for this purpose when standing. To a lesser degree they help us when we are sitting. But this part is taken away when we have a back on the chair or we sit in a recliner.
For these and other reasons we should include a regimen of exercise to keep our abdominal muscles toned and strong.
What happens when we do not exercise our abdomens
If you were to visit a mall or shopping center and just sit and observe people, you might be surprised. Not just among senior citizens, but all adults you will see that a large percentage have what we call belly fat. The colloquial term would be a “gut”. Much of that can be attributed to the food that we as a society consume. But much, if not the majority, can be attributed to the lack of physical exercise that we do. This is especially true among retirees, in spite of the commercials you see on TV.
Along with the “gut” that is developed comes other problems. Because of the “gut” people develop back problems. The spine and the muscles connected to it are well-designed for what they should do. But they were not designed to be a cantilever for a protruding belly. When back problems develop, then multiple other body functions are affected.
So, it is imperative that we address the core body muscles. By exercising them and utilizing them we help to burn the calories that would normally be stored there as fat. By burning those calories we strengthen the stomach muscles and raise our metabolism and burn those calories. In do so we take the strain off of back muscles which they are not designed to carry.
Some abdominal exercises
OK! So what are some abdominal exercises that retirees can do to keep their core muscles healthy?
We mentioned walking earlier. Walking is good because you are standing. It is when you are standing that the abdominal muscles do the work they are well-designed to do, keep you upright. So, walking is an excellent way to warm up before exercising your core muscles. If you do not have space to walk some distance, just walk back and forth or around in circles for 5 to 10 minutes.
Stretching the core muscles
To begin, stand with your feet spread just a little wider than your shoulders. Place your hands on your hips. Now, turn to the right from your waist up. Hold it for three seconds. Now, turn to the front. Next, turn to the left from the waist up and hold it for three seconds. Then return to your starting position. Do five sets of this, then relax.
To further warm up and prepare the abdominal muscles begin by standing erect. Place your feet a little outside of your shoulders. Put your hands on your hips. Now, in a controlled manner bend forward to about a 30 degree angle. Then come back to an upright position. Next, lean to the right to the same degree angle. Now, back to upright. The next move is to the back to about the 30 degree angle. This should not be too stressful. If it is, do not bend to the 30 degrees. Come back to upright. Bend to the left to the 30 degree angle, and then back to the upright position.
All exercises are done in a slow and controlled manner, without sudden moves or jerks. Stay in control at all times. Repeat the rotation five times and then relax a minute.
To do this exercise, you must lay on your back on the floor. Put a yoga pad on the floor if you do not have carpet. Lie on your back. Slide your feet toward your hips. Keep them flat on the floor. When you reach about half-way, stop. Keep your feet flat on the floor.
Place your arms by your side, with palms down and flat on the floor. Now, tilt your head and try to touch your chest with your chin. As you do this try to lift your shoulders off the floor slightly. You should feel your abdominal muscles grabbing in a crunch. Hold it for only a second or so. Then release. After a few seconds, repeat the process. Do this ten times, then relax for a few minutes. Do three sets.
(If raising the shoulders does not help you produce the crunch, try using your hands to reach for your knees.)
To strengthen the lower abdomen assume the position of lying on your back. This time keep your legs extended. For this exercise raise your feet off the floor approximately 6 inches. If you can not do this at first, just try to lift your feet. If your are able to lift your feet, hold them for a count of 5 and then lower them to the floor. Repeat this 10 times.
If you are not able to raise your feet the 6 to 8 inches, try this method until you can. While on your back, slide your feet toward your hips and then raise your feet up in the air at a 90 degree angle. Then slowly lower your feet to the floor keeping your legs extended. Use this exercise until you build enough strength to do the initial exercise of raising your feet 6 inches.
This is how I recommend doing sit ups. You begin by sitting on the floor or mat. You need to locate yourself where you can place your feet under a piece of furniture or weighted object. This is so your feet will be held down as you exert pressure during a sit up.
In your sitting position with your knees bent, hold yourself in that position with your hands on your knees. If you can not reach your knees, just keep your arms and hands stretched out toward your knees and legs. As you finish the repetitions you can use your hands to hold you up in your sitting position and help relax and stretch your back muscles. All levels of ability in this exercise begin and work the same.
From the sitting up position, with your knees bent, lean back about ¼ of the distance to the floor, or lying position. Then come back to the original sitting position. Do ten repetitions. Without getting up, take a short breather.
Now, do the same move but this time go ½ of the distance to the lying position and then back up. Do 10 repetitions. Relax a few seconds.
For the third group, lean back to about ¾ of the distance to the lying position. Do ten repetitions and relax again.
For the final group lean all the way back until your back touches the floor. Then raise back to the beginning position.
If you do not have the strength to do all the phases of this exercise, just go as far as you can. It may take a while to build your abdominal muscles to a point that you can do all the phases. Be patient with yourself. You can do it.
Advanced abdominal exercises
If you feel relatively comfortable doing the above exercise, you may wish to move on to a little more advanced exercise.
In this exercise you position yourself as in the sit ups. This time you begin by lying on your back, with your legs bent, feet flat on the floor. Your hands are locked behind your head.
You begin your sit up by pulling your elbows toward the front of your body. As you do this, begin raising your body to the sit up position. But, rather than remaining straight forward, turn your right elbow and touch your left knee. Then go back to lying position. On the next repetition, touch your left elbow to your right knee. Do ten repetitions.
A variation of this exercise is to raise up, touch the right elbow to the left knee, then touch the left elbow to the right. Then return to lying position.
If any of these exercises are too difficult at first, be patient with yourself. It takes time to build strength in any muscle. If you have neglected these muscles for many years, it may take several months to begin to realize progress in strengthening them.
Be diligent in your exercise and wise in your diet and you will see great improvement with even minimal exercise.
If you need encouragement feel free to email me and I’ll be glad to help you along.
Other materials and exercise
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