As a senior, joint flexibility is one of the keys to living a healthy, active and independent lifestyle for as long as you can. While your joints may have stiffened over the last few years, it is never too late to start a stretching program to get back some of the flexibility lost. Without the intervention of a stretching program, muscles will keep getting shorter and continue to lose their elasticity. Frequent stretching can reduce back pain, improve posture and relieve pain caused by arthritis.
1) Static vs Dynamic
Static stretching is preferred for lasting muscle length and soft tissue flexibility. It places a reduced load on a muscle, but for a longer period of time. Usually the muscle is slowly extended to its fullest length and held there for 10 to 30 seconds.
Dynamic stretching increases range of motion by placing a greater load, but for a shorter period of time. The muscle is still stretched (but at a faster rate) to its fullest length and held there, but for a shorter amount of time, usually 2 to 5 seconds. It more replicates muscle movement when that muscle is in use.
However, because “muscle bouncing” is more of a danger with dynamic stretching, static is a safer choice as far as minimizing the risk of an injury in seniors. If a dynamic stretching program is used to increase joint flexibility and range of motion, only do it on muscles that have been warmed up prior to stretching.
Talking about warm-up. Many people still confuse a stretching exercise with a warm-up exercise, and that’s the reason why people feel uncomfortable when they start with stretching cold muscles. It’s also the easiest way to get injuries, and that’s the opposite of what we want to achieve with stretching.
So always warm up the muscles you want to stretch first. While stretching is commonly used as part of both pre- and post-workout training programs in younger adults, stretching is the whole exercise program for many seniors. That also means that the warm-up can be a very gentle way of moving the muscles in your body, till you feel you are ready to start your dynamic stretching, or the muscle is warm enough to hold a static stretch.
2) How Often Should I Stretch?
After muscles are warmed, by doing a mild cardio exercise such as walking, stretch each major muscle group 3 to 5 times holding each stretch for 10 to 30 seconds. To maintain flexibility, stretching should be performed 2 to 3 days per week. For maximum, flexibility stretch 4 to 5 days per week.
3) Sample Stretches
Hip Extension – Stand while holding onto the back of a chair for stability. Extend one leg backward in a sweeping motion keeping your knee straight. Return to the starting position. Repeat 10 times with each leg.
Here’s a short video by Howcast where Celebrity Trainer and Fitness Model Layla Luciano demonstrates how to do a kneeling hip extension, which is a great alternative or addition to the standing one we described above.
Ankle Circles – Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Lift your right foot up by bending at the knee. Rotate your foot in a circle 20 times. Then change the direction of rotation and move in a circle 20 times again. Repeat with the other ankle.
Bent Over Rows – From the standing position, hold onto the back of a chair with one hand for support. With your other arm fully extended downward and holding a light weight in that hand, pull that arm up and back bending at the elbow until the upper arm is parallel to the floor. Repeat 10 times before switching arms.
Overhead Press – Seated in a chair with a light weight in each hand at chest level, ensure your arms are bent at the elbow. Forearms should be perpendicular to the floor. Push the weights straight up until arms are fully extended. Hold for a second or two before lowering the weights back down to the starting position. Repeat 10 times.
Weights can be a bottle of water, unopened soup can or light dumbbells as required. Increasing and maintaining flexibility makes everyday tasks easier along with being less painful.
Here’s a home workout video with Upper Body Stretches for beginners that you can follow along from anywhere you are:
And if you want a 10 minute full body beginners stretching routine, here’s a video where Tiffany Blair demonstrates full body flexibility stretches for stretching exercises that you can do at home:
FREE Stretching eBook
In this ebook you will find information on how to help prevent injuries, and it’s FREE to download. For more information on the content of the eBook, you can click the book cover, or go here: