Renew You Challenge: Strengthen your core

Just about every movement you make involves your midsection. Help strengthen yours with this plank variation that’s tailor-made for older adults.

Lou Schuler, CSCS
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The Renew You Challenge is the newest health and wellness experience from Renew by UnitedHealthcare® to help inspire you to take charge of your well-being every day. Every weekday in October, we’re sharing new ideas to help build up your body, mind and spirit.”


When you hear fitness instructors talk about “working your core,” you might think sit-ups are in your near future. But here’s the thing: sit-ups do work your abs, but the risk to your lower back may be greater than the reward. 

It’s helpful to remember that your core is made up of several different muscle groups, not just your abs. Your glutes, hips and back muscles are also included. The best core exercises use all of these muscles to work together to help accomplish one goal — improved strength.

The stronger your core is, the easier it is to walk and get your mail, put away a load of groceries, weed the garden — even hug an old pal (remember those?). 

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A strong core is also important for good posture, better balance and extra energy, reports the Mayo Clinic. But perhaps the most important role your core muscles play is that of protector. These muscles help safeguard the lower back from injury.

It’s like a domino effect: When your spine is supported well by all of the surrounding muscles, you can stand a little taller and move with more efficiency, says Robert Linkul, C.S.C.S., a certified personal trainer who specializes in working with older adults. That’s because you won’t have as many “energy leaks” in the movement chain — meaning all of the core muscles are doing their job, and no one or two muscles are carrying the load of a weaker muscle. Everyday movements may become easier and you’ll start to feel like you can do more. 

Try This Today! The Incline “Push-Up” Plank

Planks are one of the best exercises to strengthen the core, says Linkul. There are lots of ways to do a plank — high planks, bent arm planks, side planks, to name a few. This version is especially nice for older adults, he says, because your body will be positioned in a way that protects your back and shoulders.

First, make sure you have your doctor’s OK to exercise. Then, all you need to do is press play and follow along. Planks are safe enough to do every day. At first, try to hold the plank position for 20 to 30 seconds, and over time you can challenge yourself to add more time.


Try This 10-Minute Core Strengthening Workout
Renew gives you the tools, tips and resources you need to start a fitness routine — including a series of Renew You Challenge Workouts from strength coach Lou Schuler. His 10-Minute Core Strengthening Workout features the Incline “Push-Up” Plank, plus challenging variations and additional moves that are great for many fitness levels. To find them, sign into your plan website and go to Health & Wellness. Then type Renew You Challenge into the search bar. Not a member? Learn more here