One of the side effects of aging is our muscles and joints tend to weaken over time, as does our range of movement. Stretching is a simple, easy way—no fancy exercise equipment needed!—to age actively and keep the body limber.
Benefits of stretching include:
· Improve flexibility
· Increase circulation and blood flow
· Maintain strength
The best time to stretch depends on your mobility. For active seniors, stretch your muscles while they’re still warm at the end of routine exercise. If you don’t regularly exercise, try to start slow with an easy warm-up walk to get the muscles loose first thing in the morning or to relax at the end of the day, then try the stretches below.
Best Stretches For Seniors
1. Standing quadriceps Stretch
Good for mobility and flexibility, this stretch focuses on the muscles in the top half of your upper legs. Start by holding on to the back of a chair or couch for support and stand on one leg. Bend the opposite leg at the knee, and with the hand not holding the support, clasp your ankle and gently pull your foot towards your bottom. Hold for 10 – 30 seconds and repeat on the opposite leg.
2. Seated knee to chest
This stretch serves to improve mobility in your hips and knees, as well as the flexibility in your lower back. Sitting comfortably in a chair, grasp your right knee and slowly pull it towards your chest. Once you feel tension, hold for 10 – 30 seconds and then let your leg down gently. Repeat on the opposite side.
3. Calf muscle
Stand facing the wall with your palms flat against it in front of you, arms straight and one foot in front of the other, your front knee slightly bent, so you look like a runner about to take off! Keeping your back knee straight and your whole foot planted firmly on the ground, lean towards the wall until your feel the stretch in your calf muscle for 10 – 30 seconds. Switch legs.
4. Seated side stretch
Loosen up the abdomen, back and shoulder muscles by sitting comfortably in a chair, your feet hip-width apart and facing forward. Then, raise your right arm and lean slowing to the left while keeping your torso long and lean. Hold for 10 – 30 seconds, then repeat on the left side.
5. Shoulder and tricep stretch
Upper body mobility is important for daily tasks. This simple stretch uses a towel: Hold it by the end in one hand over your head so that it dangles behind your head. Then, grasp the other end of the towel with your other hand and gently pull both ends until you feel the stretch for 10 – 30 seconds. Switch arm positions.
- Don’t forget to breathe! Steady, intentional breath can help bring you into your body and focus on each muscle group; listen to what your body is telling you. This can help reduce the chance of over-stretching.
- Hold each stretch for up to 30 seconds, but never to the point of pain! Try to keep still and ground into the stretch.
- Always do some light walking first to warm up.
It’s always a good idea to speak with your doctor or physical therapist before starting anything new, including a stretching routine that’s good for your body! Let’s celebrate our differences and stretch our way to good health for the New Year.