Important things to consider when starting out
Below are some important things that you need consider when you are starting out:
- Start slow. It will be really tempting for you to try every exercise under the sun, but slow down and master one exercise at a time. Remember that the key to stretching is to hold each stretch for longer, so start with small stretches and gradually increase them. One minute is not a lot of time, but with practice, you will be able to stretch for up to several minutes.
- Listen to your body. While experts recommend a variety of stretches, you are the expert, and you need to listen to your body and what it tells you. Everyone is different, so you need to find out what works best for your body.
- Always warm up your muscles. Don’t attempt to stretch cold muscles. You should always warm up with a few minutes of cardiovascular exercise (such as walking) before stretching.
- Stay hydrated. Before and during any exercise, you need to have adequate fluids. This is especially important for stretching, as dehydration can result in cramps, which will hinder your stretching efforts.
- Don’t overstretch. Many people, especially seniors, are guilty of thinking that more is better. This is not true with stretching. The more you stretch, the more opportunity you give your body to get hurt. Go slowly, and stop when you feel your muscle beginning to pull.
When and how much stretching you should do
If you are just starting to stretch or increasing your stretch routine significantly, you should know that stretching and exercise go hand in hand. Many people believe that when you start to stretch you should stretch for hours. This is not true. You should stretch 2-3 times per week for 20 minutes when you start (for your muscles and joints to get used to performing the stretches). But from day one, you want to add stretching into your exercise regime by doing a specific exercise routine. After a month you can extend your exercise routine to 30 minutes per session. The key is to increase slowly, to make sure you are doing the exercises correctly and to ensure that your muscles are sufficiently warmed up before you exercise.
How beneficial are stretching exercises to seniors
I am a senior and look forward to a long fruitful active life. I’m fortunate that I have an individualized exercise routine that is designed specifically for seniors. Regular exercise helps me stay limber and stronger, but I think most people over 60 agree that we wish we were more flexible.
Flexibility is an important component to overall health and exercise.
According to the AARP, seniors stretching exercises can help to decrease injury and increase functionality.
AARP states that stretching and flexibility exercises can help you:
- Avoid injuries: Stretching improves muscle strength and improves your balance so you are less likely to fall. If you have any pre-existing conditions, stretching your muscles may help provide relief from stiffness and pain.
- Maintain your independence: In the Stretching and Flexibility for Health (PDF), it is stated that flexibility exercises can help you with daily activities such as bending down to pick up a dropped object or moving around in furniture without pain.
- Be more productive: If you rely on public transportation or are frequently on the go, it’s likely that you’ll experience discomfort in areas that need stretching and flexibility exercises such as your back and shoulders. This discomfort can lead to unnecessary stiffness that can prevent you from enjoying your daily activities.
Types of stretching exercises ideal for seniors
Stretching exercises are good for every age group. Let’s have a look at some of the best stretching exercises for seniors.
Balance Stretches. As people age they become more aware of their precariousness. Balance exercieses like these will help them with that.
Flexibility Exercises. As our muscles age they become less flexible and therefore need to be stretched more often than young people.
For the Back. Stretches for the back are good for preventing disc herniation (covered earlier) and can reduce back pain for those with painful back injuries like arthritis.
For the Legs. Leg muscles often lose elasticity as we age and stretching them and strengthening them can help provide relief for aching bones and joints.
Other Body Parts. Stretches for the shoulders, the neck, and the hips are also important for staying limber and in shape.
Stretching exercises aren’t just beneficial to the body. They can also help improve your mood. For instance they can help reduce muscle tension, headaches, and improve flexibility which can help improve posture. Some exercises may even help soothe your soul after a hard day’s work. There’s a good variety of stretches that you can do and we’ve covered a few of them here.