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Stretching Tips for Seniors

Now that you’ve heard about all the benefits of exercise as you age, you’re ready to hit the gym or at least go for a daily walk. There’s only one problem: Your joints don’t seem to want to cooperate.

Is it too late to limber up? For most people, the answer is NO!  Flexibility decreases with age and physical inactivity, and this can cause your muscles, tendons .and ligaments to grow shorter over time. But regardless of your age, you can increase your flexibility by incorporating stretching into your daily routine. Remember, though, that aerobic fitness and strengthening are also very important for older adults. And exercise can improve your well-being and reduce your risk of falling.

Note: Always consult your doctor before starting a new exercise or stretching routine.

A daily stretching routine can improve the following:

Physical performance. Increased flexibility makes it easier and less tiring to perform daily tasks such as lifting, bending, turning and engaging in other repetitive movements.

Circulation. Stretching raises the temperature of your muscles, increasing the circulation in that area – which helps keep your tissues healthy.

Posture. Short, frequent stretches throughout the day can keep your muscles from getting tight. This helps you maintain proper posture and reduces aches and pains.

Coordination and balance. Lack of flexibility can lead to loss of balance, causing falls. A regular stretching routine can help you maintain a good range of motion, reducing injuries.

So here are some stretching tips for seniors from the National Institute on Aging and the American College of Sports Medicine:

  • Stretch lightly before engaging in strength and endurance activities, then stretch more thoroughly after your workout.
  • If you’re unable to perform strength or endurance exercises but able to do stretching exercises, do them at least three times per week for at least 20 minutes per session.
  • Do each stretching exercise three to four times during each session.
  • Stretch slowly and as far as possible without pain. Hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds. Relax, and then try to stretch further with each repetition.
Safety Tips:
  • Talk to your doctor before engaging in a new exercise program.
  • Warm up before you stretch. A little bit of easy walking or arm pumping should be sufficient.
  • Mild discomfort or a mild pulling sensation is normal during stretching, but you should never stretch until you feel pain, especially joint pain. If you feel pain, reduce the stretch so that it doesn’t hurt.
  • Ease slowly into a stretch – don’t bounce. Jerking into a stretch can cause muscle tightening and increase your risk of injury.
  • Don’t lock your joints into place when you straighten them during a stretch. Your arms and legs should be straight when you stretch them, but not tightly so. You should maintain a very small amount of bending in your joints.
  • If you’ve had a hip replacement, talk to your surgeon before doing lower-body exercises. When stretching, you shouldn’t cross your legs or bend your hips past a 90-degree angle.

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