Stretching: How to Begin a Stretch Routine for Seniors

As we age, movements that were once routine – such as getting dressed or reaching for objects on a shelf – become cumbersome. Keeping our bodies active and moving is the first step in prolonging our comfortable enjoyment of life as we’ve known it. Stretching is a low-impact, high reward method for relieving stiff muscles and retaining range of motion and mobility. A routine stretching program can also improve balance, thereby decreasing the chances of injury due to a trip or fall.

To begin a stretching routine, follow these easy steps:

 

Talk with your doctor. Having a conversation with your primary care provider prior to beginning any new exercise regimen is a good idea. You want to discuss whether there are any exercises or activities you should avoid, so be sure that preventive care tests are up to date. For example, women over the age of 65 should regularly be checked for osteoporosis. Or, if you have a recent injury or are recovering from a recent surgery, there are some exercises you should not do. It’s important to know this before you get started.

Find an approved stretching routine. The National Institute of Aging at NIH has a great program for older adults as part of their Go4Life curriculum to improve flexibility.Your primary care physician may also have materials that suggest daily movements and stretches you can begin with. It is important to know that your body and physical capabilities may not be the same as someone 30 or more years your junior. Therefore, you will want to specifically take classes and direction from a licensed professional who understands the capabilities of older adults.

Warm up. Stretching cold muscles can cause more damage than good. Be sure to warm up the muscle group you want to stretch in advance. Taking a brisk walk prior to stretching legs and hips is a great start. For your upper body, begin by doing large circle motions with arms extended.

Breathe. When holding a stretch, remember to breathe normally. Think about breathing oxygen into your muscles as you hold for three to five seconds.

Stop if it hurts. There’s a clear difference between the discomfort of a stretch – a mild puling feeling – and that of an overstretch, which can be a sharp stabbing pain or joint pain. If you experience this, release the stretch immediately. When you do the stretch in the future, minimize the range to keep the stretch in a “safe zone,” causing very little to no discomfort.

Try new regimens. Practices such as Tai Chi, Qi Gong and Yoga are all century old mind and body movements using postures and gentle movements with mental focus, breath, and relaxation techniques. Try learning one of these by taking a class in your community. When attempting Yoga for the first time, start with a class called Gentle Yoga or Seniors Yoga. These classes are generally focused on the appropriate positions and movements for mature adults.

Increasing flexibility and mobility through a routine stretching program can reduce pain and enhance our daily lives.  To see how we are helping seniors live comfortable and engaged lifestyles, please visit our site or contact us.

Feature photo courtesy of Pixabay under Creative Commons 0 License