Everything you do, every movement you make, originates and flows from strong core muscles.
Your core supports your spine and helps keep your body balanced and stable. It provides a center of gravity and allows for better performance of movement. A healthy core fights against back pain while it provides better:
Obviously, having a strong core is an important part of overall fitness, but why is it especially important as we grow older? Prevention. Healing from injuries is much more difficult than avoiding them (not to mention the emotional and financial stress that can follow).
A strong core provides some key benefits to the elderly, such as improved coordination and posture, that help seniors mitigate any harm done by the stumbles that inevitably happen to us all.
For anyone still enjoying the flowers of youth, good balance may simply be a given outside of the ice-skating rink. However, diminishing strength and reaction time as we age can cause normally quotidian tasks to become difficult if not treacherous. Navigating the aisles of a dimly-lit movie theatre, going up and down stairs or simply trying to walk down the uneven sidewalks present in most cities can present significant risks.
A strong core is so important to seniors that one study from the University of Illinois-Chicago is aiming to push seniors to the edge and, safely, over it. The hope is to strengthen core muscles and reaction time to provide, as lead researcher and physical therapy professor, Clive Pai, puts it, a “vaccine against falls.”
Researchers have created a rather novel idea: a treadmill designed to trip you. Something like stepping on a wet patch of linoleum, slats on the treadmill can be shifted suddenly when a participant steps on them. Don’t worry, nobody falls, as a harness safely supports anyone who completely loses their footing.
However, in preliminary results published in summer 2014, Pai found that 24 “trips” in a session was enough to help seniors “re-learn” and strengthen their own natural ability to prevent falls. In fact, they found that just sessions were able to reduce the chances of fall over the next 12 months by as much as 50%. Of course, numerous sessions would be required to improve muscle strength.
Those are some promising results. However, it should be mentioned that the research is still ongoing, so it’s too early to draw any true conclusions from it.
In the absence of a team of researchers and a custom-built “trip-mill,” there are lots of ways that you can conveniently improve your own coordination, balance and core, no matter how many trips you’ve made around the sun.
For starters, be sure to exercise. Improving the strength of your body now will make it easier to maintain it later. A nice walk each evening is much better than another night on the couch.
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