When you do core-building exercises, you strengthen the muscles in your abdomen and back. Strong core muscles take pressure off your spine and hip joints, which can help reduce arthritis pain and prevent additional joint damage. Strong core muscles can also increase stability and balance for your entire body.

Strength-building exercises are a core part of any exercise program for arthritis. Read Exercising with Arthritis

These 7 exercises will help you stretch and strengthen your core muscles. When exercising, remember: muscle soreness is normal, but if you experience any sharp or severe pain, stop whatever exercise or activity you’re doing.

Floor exercises for your core muscles

These first 4 exercises will strengthen your lower back, abdominal, and/or pelvic floor muscles. Targeted exercises are useful for these muscle groups, because they may not get much use during daily activities.

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1. Pelvic tilt

This exercise involves a very slight internal movement that isolates and strengthens your core and pelvic floor muscles:

  1. Lie on the floor with your knees bent, your feet placed on the floor parallel to each other, and your arms at your sides.
  2. Tighten your lower abdominal muscles, sinking your abdomen downward toward your spine without using your buttock or leg muscles to help you. Your pelvis will tilt slightly during this movement while your low back presses against the floor.
  3. Hold this position for 5 seconds, then relax your muscles.

Do two sets of 10 to 15 repetitions.

2. Lying march

  1. Lie on your back on the floor, with knees bent and arms your sides.
  2. Tighten your stomach muscles and slowly raise your left leg 3 to 4 inches from the floor. Hold it for a few seconds, then slowly lower it to the floor.
  3. Do the same with the right leg, and continue alternating legs, “marching” for 30 seconds.

Repeat 2 or 3 times.

3. Bridge

  1. Lie on your back on the floor, with knees bent and arms at your sides.
  2. Clench your buttocks and slowly raise them up and away from the floor, until your body is straight from your knees to your shoulders.
  3. Hold the bridge position for 8 to 10 seconds, then slowly lower to starting position.

Do two sets of 10 to 15 repetitions.

4. Planking

  1. Start with your hands and knees on the floor and your back straight.
  2. Raise your left leg off the floor and behind you, with your left knee slightly bent and no arch in your back or neck.
  3. Hold for 4 to 6 seconds, then slowly lower to starting position.
  4. Repeat with your right leg.
  5. Repeat 10 to 15 times on each side.

Try doing a couple of sets. For a slightly more advanced exercise, raise one leg and the opposite arm at the same time. Hold for 4 to 6 seconds, then slowly lower to starting position.

Using an exercise ball to strengthen your core

The following 3 core exercises require an exercise ball. You can find exercise balls at your gym or for sale in most sporting goods stores. Beginners may find it easier to use a slightly deflated ball.

5. Marching on the ball

  1. Sit on the exercise ball with your feet in front of you. Your feet should be about shoulder-width apart and flat on the ground.
  2. Lift one heel while keeping your toes on the ground. For a greater challenge, lift your whole foot off the ground.
  3. Hold that position for a few seconds and then put that foot back on the ground and switch to the other side.

Avoid hunching your shoulders and focus on stabilizing your body with your core muscles. Try marching for 3 or 4 minutes or longer.

6. Half crunch on the ball

  1. Sit on the exercise ball with your feet flat on the floor and your arms crossed over your chest.
  2. Slowly lean back at a 45-degree angle, bending at your hips and lifting your heels off the ground.
  3. Use your abdominal muscles to pull yourself back up into a sitting position, setting your heels back on the ground and returning to a flat-footed position.

Do two sets of 5 to 10 repetitions.

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7. Oblique crunch on the ball

  1. Sit on the exercise ball with your feet flat on the floor and your arms raised straight overhead.
  2. Slowly lean back at a 45-degree angle, bending at your hips and lifting your heels off the ground.
  3. While holding this position, slowly lower your left arm to your right knee.
  4. Return your left arm overhead and alternate sides, doing the same exercise with your right arm.

Repeat 10 times.

The number of repetitions and sets recommended here are just that—recommendations. You may do more or less depending on your ability. Remember that keeping good form is more important than doing multiple sets or repetitions. If you have questions about form, a doctor or physical therapist can help guide you.

Learn more:

Ways to Get Exercise When You Have Arthritis

Self Care and Exercise to Treat Spine Osteoarthritis

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