Stretching Exercises for Seniors
There are many ways to stay healthy throughout life. For example: eating right, staying hydrated and well rested, and regularly exercising. Unfortunately, some might not remember that in addition to their regular exercise of choice, they have to regularly stretch. Stretching the body helps keep joints and muscles relaxed and ready, which is helpful to prevent injuries when working out or during the day-to-day. Stretching can help keep the body young, healthy, and moving while improving flexibility and mobility.
Static stretches focus on holding an extension of the muscles for a period of time. When static stretching, each muscle or muscle group needs to be stretched once for at least 15 seconds. It’s essential to remember that it’s okay to feel a stretch but once that becomes pain, that is not good. It means that it’s time to stop.
Advantages of Static Stretching
Static stretches can help improve overall flexibility which can improve things like lengthening your posture, for example. Static stretches are best done with deep, focused breathing which may come with the added benefit of lowering anxieties and helping you relax. When used before working out these stretches help prepare muscles. When used after working out, they help the muscles unwind and realign.
Taking a deep breath in while standing, raise your arms to the ceiling with your fingers pointing up. Really feel your posture straighten out. On the exhale, bring your arms back down to your sides. Repeat this motion several times.
While standing straight, place hands on the hips. Gently arc backwards while maintaining your eyes fixed on the ceiling. Hold this position for less than three seconds, and return to the starting position.
Deep Side Stretch
This stretch can be done standing or sitting. While inhaling, expand the body up and outwards. Lift one arm and stretch in the opposite direction, lengthening the arm as far as allowed. For example, if the right arm is raised, bend and stretch towards the left side. Focus on opening up the rib cage and lengthening the sides. Repeat on both sides.
Either sitting or standing, keep the back straight and the posture tall. Lift the right arm over the head and bend the elbow to place the hand on the small of the back below the neck. With the opposite arm, hold the elbow and gently pull in the opposite direction to feel a light stretch in the back of the bent arm. Hold and then switch arms.
Toe Touches or Forward Fold
While in a tall standing position, take a deep breath in while raising the arms towards the ceiling. On the exhale, bend at the hips and, in an isolated manner, move the upper body downwards. Stretch the hands and arms as far as possible as if reaching for the toes. If necessary, the knees can be slightly bent to add extra support for the lower back.
Standing Quadriceps Stretch
Starting at a standing position, use the right hand to hold onto the back of a chair or a countertop for support. Slowly bend the left knee and, using the left hand, hold the left foot. This stretch should be felt in the front of the thigh, and should be held for about 30 seconds before switching to the next side.
Neck Side Stretch
For this simple stretch, it is best to be sitting in a tall position. To warm up, gently lean the head from side to side. Next, place the right arm over the head and bring the hand down to the left ear and gently pull the head towards the right. Hold this position for 20 seconds and then repeat on the opposite side.
Seated Hip Stretch
Again starting sitting in a tall position, cross the left leg over the right leg leaving the left ankle above the knee. Relax the left hip to allow gravity to pull it down, or gently press down the left leg and knee to achieve a deeper stretch. Once held for 20 seconds, switch legs and repeat.
Laying down on a comfortable but firm surface, bring the left leg up and slowly pull into the chest. Make sure to keep the shoulders flat on the floor while pulling the knee in to feel the proper stretch through the lower back, glutes, and hamstring. Hold on each leg for 30 seconds.
Lower Back Stretch
While still laying on a comfortable but firm surface, again bring the legs up and bend them into the chest. In this case, instead of just one leg, both will be brought into the chest and held. While holding this position, stress will be released from the lower back while achieving a stretch.
Stretches that involve active movements that push the joints and muscles through a full range of motion are known as dynamic stretches. Dynamic stretches are functional and are a valuable addition, if not necessary, to a pre-workout warm-up. These movements can also mimic those of the activity about to take place, helping the body prepare for the upcoming work.
Advantages of Dynamic Stretching
As a powerful pre-workout warm-up, dynamic stretching activates the muscles and prepares the body for movement while increasing blood flow. In addition to improved blood flow, these stretches help improve strength, flexibility, and reduce the risk of injury. Since dynamic stretching movements tend to mimic the workout itself through movement, the body can be adequately limber while repeating the workout motions later.
While holding out the arms in a T like pose, circle the arms forward for 30 seconds. Keep the circles as large, or as small as is comfortable. Next, circle the arms backwards for 30 more seconds, and repeat as desired.
Starting with the arms held wide open, feel the chest open up. Next bring the arms in and hug the chest. Then, open the arms back up and again repeat the hugging motion, alternating which arm goes on top.
Start by stretching the arms forward with a bent elbow. Next, roll the shoulder backward while using the elbows to draw circles in the air. Roll the shoulders forward for 20 seconds and then switch with rolling them backward.
Beginning with a shoulder-width apart stance, bring the arms out to the sides from shoulder height. Maintaining a tall stature, slowly rotate the torso back and forth from left to right. Repeat up to 10 times, making sure the torso stays still.
Lunge with a Twist
Starting on the right side, take a step forward into a lunge position. Make sure that the knee remains directly above the ankle, no further. Next, reach overheard with the left arm and pull the torso towards the right side. Lastly, bring the right leg back and alternate to the left side.
Starting with the leg of choice with the heel grounded on the floor with the toe turned up, bend down towards the toes while scooping the hands. The hands will go along the body and full length of leg until completing the scoop back into a standing position. After, repeat the motions about 10 times with continuous alternation.
Starting in a wide stance with the toes slightly pointed out, and lean towards the right to sink into a side lunge. Keep the right knee behind the toes for proper form and hold to feel a stretch in the gluteals. Slowly come back up and repeat on the other side.
If needed this stretch can be done holding on to a wall or chair for balance. Begin with the feet shoulder-width apart, and then swing one leg back and forth as high as the body comfortably allows while maintaining the opposite heel firmly grounded. After doing this a couple of seconds, repeat with the opposite leg.
Hip Stretch with Twist
Get into a push-up position, and then step one knee forward to enter a forward lunge. Extend the opposite arm straight up while maintaining a tight core to hold this position for a couple seconds. Get back into the push-up position and switch sides and arms.
This stretch can also be done by holding onto a wall or chair for added support. Shifting the weight onto one leg, move the other leg in about 20 small circles out to the side. As flexibility increases so will the sizes of the circles. Once done on one side, shift weight and alternate sides.
Exercise is Critical For a Healthy Lifestyle
Whether opting for static stretching or dynamic stretching, the most important point to remember is that stretching overall is an important factor in the body’s health. Stretching, along with a regular exercise routine, is critical for a long, healthy life. Remember to listen to the body and know where there are limitations. Always practice safe stretching techniques, like proper breathing and not rushing, as well as not stretching while injured.