Arthritis: 5 exercises to strengthen your core

The core muscles in your abdomen and back support your entire body, including your joints. Strengthen those core muscles and you will take pressure and strain off your arthritic joints. Here are some exercises for all different fitness levels. 

Arthritis: 5 exercises to strengthen your core

1. Modified abdominal curl (for beginners)

The curl is a fundamental part of any well-rounded routine, but the hand position on this version creates less resistance than in a standard curl.

  • Lie on your back with feet flat on the floor, knees bent and your arms at your sides.
  • Raising your head, use your abdominal muscles to pull your shoulders off the floor so you can look at the top of your knees. Keep enough space to fit a baseball between your chin and chest as you come up and slide your hands forward along the floor as you move your shoulders off the floor.
  • Slowly lower your shoulders back to the floor.

2. Basic abdominal curl

  • Start from the same position as in a modified curl, but with one difference: Put your hands across your chest, touching each hand to the opposite shoulder. This provides more resistance for ab muscles to overcome.

3. Basic bicycle

This exercise is a favourite strength and endurance builder for athletes from diverse sports such as football, hockey, boxing, gymnastics, figure skating and martial arts — yet it's easy to modify so that even people with chronic musculoskeletal problems can perform it.

  • Lie flat on your back with your legs straight and your hands behind or lightly touching your ears.
  • Lift your head off the floor and bring your left knee toward your head, stopping when your knee is about waist level and your thigh is perpendicular to the floor. At the same time, bring your right elbow toward the elevated knee so that your torso twists slightly and your elbow and knee are as close as possible over your abdomen.
  • Slowly return to the starting position. Rest for one second and repeat with the opposite limbs.
  • This exercise should take about five seconds, with two seconds to bring knee and elbow close and three seconds to return. As you become stronger, reduce the resting time for a more difficult workout. All motions should be smooth and controlled, which keeps resistance on muscles longer and improves strength and tone more quickly.

4. Flutter kick

This exercise helps build abdominal strength, but also enhances coordination if you swim.

  • Lie on your back, propped on your elbows, with your feet straight out in front of you, toes pointed toward the ceiling.
  • Lift your right heel 10 to 15 centimetres (four to six inches) off the ground. Bring it back to the floor, then lift and return the left leg in the same way to complete one repetition. Continue this kicking motion until you finish a set.
  • Though this move resembles swimming, don't kick fast like you're in the water, but keep movements slow and controlled, taking one second to lift and one second to return.

5. Advanced abdominal curl

  • Lift your head and shoulders off the floor just as you do with modified and basic curls, but in this version, touch your hands lightly behind your ears, which adds even greater resistance.
  • Don't hold your head in your hands to do curls. That tends to make you pull your head up with your hands, which puts pressure on the back of your upper spine. Instead, touch your hands lightly behind your ears.
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