Stretching for Seniors: Improve Mobility and Flexibility

We all know that the body changes as we get older. How many of us have noticed that getting up from a chair feels a little harder in our twilight years? While it’s true that we naturally stiffen up as we age, there are stretches for seniors that can help with mobility and flexibility.

Key takeaways:
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    Having a regular stretch routine helps keep joints and muscles supple and mobile in older age.
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    There are many stretches for seniors that can be done at home.
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    Joining a stretch class for seniors is a great way to stay motivated and make new friends.
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    It’s never too late to start stretching, just a few minutes a day twice a week can be beneficial.

Why do we need to stretch as we get older?

Whenever you watch babies grabbing hold of their feet, it’s incredible to see how flexible they are. Their legs seem to float up to the ears without any effort whatsoever. But, as we get older, that limber flexibility starts to decrease.

Unless we put in the effort to keep our bodies supple, we find that even simple movements can feel difficult due to stiffness. Reaching for items stored in high places, taking a longer step or twisting your body round are just some of the actions that become challenging.

Inactivity is among the most important factors contributing to function and mobility issues in the older population. However, one study published in The Journal Of Gerontology showed that a 12-month stretching protocol had a profound effect on mobility and flexibility for seniors. Not only that, but the program presented a number of other positive changes in overall health and well-being.

Is stretching good for seniors?

Absolutely yes! There are numerous benefits of stretching for seniors.

What are the best stretches for senior citizens?

There are a number of easy-to-do stretches that can be performed at home, in a group or with a partner.

1. Reach for the sky - good for the arms and sides of the body

Reach for the sky
  • Sit in your chair with both feel flat on the floor.
  • Slowly raise both your arms as high as you can.
  • Take deep breaths as you stretch your arms upwards towards the sky.
  • Hold the stretch for 10-15 seconds and slowly lower your arms.

2. Chest opener - good for shoulder mobility and posture

Chest opener
  • Pull up a dining chair and straddle it with the back of the chair facing your stomach.
  • Make sure your feet are firmly on the ground.
  • Clasp your hands behind your back.
  • Lift up your hands and puff out your chest until you feel a lovely stretch in your shoulders, arms and chest.
  • If you aren’t able to clasp your hands behind your back, place them on your hips and move your elbows towards the center of your back.
  • Take 5 long, slow deep breaths, feeling the chest expand.
  • Gently release.

3. Easy forward fold - good for hips, back, and hamstrings

Easy forward fold
  • Sit comfortably on the floor with your legs out in front of you.
  • Place your hands on your thighs.
  • Slide your hands down your thighs until you feel the stretch in your back and down the backs of your legs.
  • Breathe deeply and hold the stretch for 10-15 seconds.
  • Gently release.

Best standing stretches for seniors

1. Supported quad stretch - good for balance, quads, and hips

Supported quad stretch
  • Stand next to a wall or your stretching partner.
  • Using your right hand for support on the wall or your partner, bend your left leg at the knee, as if you are going to touch your heel on your buttock.
  • Using your left hand, grab around the ankle of your bent leg.
  • Gently pull up to increase the stretch in your thigh.
  • Breath deeply and hold the stretch for 10-15 seconds.
  • Gently release and swap to the other side.

2. Standing side stretch - good for spine mobility and the side body

Standing side stretch
  • Stand facing forward, keeping the knees soft and feet firmly planted on the ground.
  • Place your right hand on your hip.
  • Raise your left arm above your head, inline with your ear.
  • Lean over to the right, feeling the stretch down the left side of your body.
  • Take 3 deep breaths and gently release.
  • Repeat on the other side.

3. Assisted forward fold - good for the lower back, shoulders, and hamstrings

Assisted forward fold
  • Place a chair about a foot in front of you.
  • Lean forward until your hands reach the seat of the chair.
  • Using your arms, pull yourself deeper into a forward fold.
  • Keep your knees soft and feel the opening in the lower back and hamstrings.
  • Hold this stretch for 10-15 seconds and slowly return to standing.

How often should seniors stretch?

Seniors should aim to stretch for at least ten minutes twice per week. The more frequent the stretching, the more beneficial it will be. Make sure that the body is warm before performing a stretch routine. Walking on the spot and arm circles are great warm up exercises to get the blood flowing.

Joining a seniors stretch class can be especially beneficial. The social aspect of a group class can help enormously with motivation and support to keep going.

Final thoughts

Maintaining mobility and flexibility is incredibly important as we age. Ensuring that our bodies stay agile can improve balance and allow us to remain independent and healthy for longer. Having regular stretching practices empowers us to stay supple in our senior years.

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