STRETCHING FOR SENIORS

Posted:  Wed, 08/30/2017 - 10:36am
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Simple Moves for the ‘not so flexible
Why is flexibility so important?

          Ultimately, flexibility is about enjoying your life.  By increasing your range of motion, you’ll be less prone to injury while exercising, playing sports, traveling or playing with grand kids.

Stretching.jpg          You’ll feel less stiff and more comfortable going about everyday activities like walking, lifting, bending and even driving.  You could improve your posture, circulation and balance, while relieving pain and stress.  You may even finally find out what your knees smell like.

Stretch what?

          The goal is to gain flexibility in the muscles used most in your day-to-day activities.  Start with your calves, front and back thighs, hips, back, chest, shoulders and neck.

          One stretch doesn’t fit all, but there are many variations for each muscle.  If you can’t sit on the floor to stretch your thighs, find a standing thigh exercise.  As you gain flexibility in a muscle, you can reach further with the same stretch or try different stretches for the same muscle.

Where to start:
          Slow and Easy !!!  Gaining flexibility takes time, especially for the “Oh-So-Inflexible”.  Be safe, don’t push yourself too fast and don’t give up.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

·        Warm up with a short walk before stretching.

·        Never force a stretch, even if you can only go an inch into a stretch before you feel it, start there.  You should feel slight pulling, NOT PAIN.

·        Think SMOOTH !  Don’t bounce or jerk.  Smooth steady movements are safer and more effective.

·        Don’t lock your joints.  Your arms and legs can be straight while stretching but do not lock the joints.  Bend your elbows and knees slightly if it’s more comfortable.

·        Keep breathing – slow and steady through each stretch.

·        Stretch every day.  10 to 15 minutes every day, 3 days a week at a minimum.  Stretch each muscle group 3 to 5 times each session.

Easy stretches for stiff muscles:

          With some time and consistency, even the stiffest of us can improve flexibility and reap the rewards.  Here are some simple (but effective) stretches – National Institute on Aging’s G4 Life program to get started.

  
Neck

1.     Stand or sit.

2.     Keep feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart.

3.     Turn your head slowly to the right until you feel a slight stretch.  Be sure not to tip your head forward or backward.  Hold for 10 to 30 seconds.

4.     Do the same on the left side.

5.     Repeat 3 to 5 times.

Shoulders and upper arms

What you need:  A towel

1.     Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.

2.     Hold one end of a towel in your right hand.

3.     Raise and bend your right arm to drape the towel down your back.  Keep your right arm in this position and continue holding on to the towel.

4.     Reach behind your lower back and grasp the towel with your left hand.

5.     To stretch your right shoulder, pull the towel down with your left hand.  Stop when you feel a stretch or slight discomfort in your right shoulder.

6.     Repeat at least 3 to 5 times.

7.     Reverse positions and repeat.

Arms, chest and shoulders

What you need:  A wall

1.     Stand slightly farther than arm’s length facing a wall; feet shoulder-width apart.

2.     Lean forward and put your palms flat against the wall at shoulder height/width.

3.     Keeping your back straight, slowly walk your hands up the wall until your arms are above your head.

4.     Hold your arms overhead for 10 to 30 seconds.

5.     Slowly walk hands back down.

6.     Repeat at least 3 times.

  
Calves

What you need:  A wall

1.     Stand slightly farther than arm’s length facing a wall; feet shoulder-width apart.

2.     Lean forward and put your palms flat against the wall at shoulder height/width.

3.     Step forward with right leg and bend right knee.

4.     Keeping both feet flat on floor, bend left knee slightly until you feel a comfortable stretch in your left calf muscle.  If you don’t feel a stretch, bend your right knee until you do.

5.     Hold for 10 to 30 seconds; return to starting position.

6.     Repeat at least 3 times on each leg.

  
Back

What you need:  Sturdy, armless chair

1.     Sit securely toward the front of a sturdy, armless chair with your feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart.

2.     Slowly bend forward from your hips.  Keep your back and neck straight.

3.     Slightly relax your neck and lower chin.  Slowly bend forward and slide your hands down your legs toward your shins.  Stop when you feel a stretch.

4.     Hold for 10 to 30 seconds.

5.     Straighten up slowly until you are back in starting position.

6.     Repeat at least 3 times.

Thighs

What you need:  Sturdy, armless chair

1.     Stand behind a sturdy chair with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees straight but not locked.

2.     Hold onto the chair for balance with your right hand.

3.     Bend your left leg back and grab your foot in your left hand.  Keep your knee pointed to the floor.  If you can’t reach your ankle, loop a band, belt or towel around your foot and hold both ends.

4.     Gently pull your leg until you feel a stretch in your thigh.

5.     Hold for 10 to 30 seconds.

6.     Straighten up slowly until you are back in starting position.

7.     Repeat at least 3 times on both legs.

  
Back of legs

What you need:  Bench or long surface

1.     Sit sideways on a bench or other hard surface.

2.     Keeping your back straight, stretch one leg out on bench, toes pointing up; keep other foot flat on floor.

3.     If you feel a stretch, hold for 10 to 30 seconds.

4.     If you don’t feel a stretch, lean forward from hips (not waist) until you do; then hold for 10 to 20 seconds.

5.     Repeat at least 3 times on both legs.

For the socially-inclined, yoga and tai chi classes are another effective (and fun) way to improve flexibility and balance.  Check out what SilverSneakers classes are available, and then get stretching!


Ellen Hoyt