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Best Stretching Exercises for Seniors

As we age, it is important to stay physically active, and stretching exercises for seniors are a big part of proper physical activity.

Most physicians and physical therapists agree that exercise is important if you want to have an overall good quality of life. It can help keep our bones strong, our backs straight, and delay certain diseases, such as diabetes. Additionally, as we get older, stretching can help improve balance and prevent falls. Exercise is also seen as medicine for the mind. It can improve mood and mental health.

There are plenty of benefits to stretching for seniors. Stretching can loosen the joints, which helps reduce damage created by friction, and it also helps lengthen muscles. Stretching is not something that is strictly performed by athletes. All of us need to stretch if we want to remain mobile and independent. Physical therapists suggest that everyone stretch daily.

Stretching Exercises for Seniors

When we refer to stretching exercises for seniors, the neck and spine are crucial. We tend to stick our chins out and hunch over. This can cause neck or back pain. We begin the following list of stretching exercises for those over 60 with a movement that can ease pain from bad posture.

Neck and chest stretch

With this stretch, you begin seated with your feet flat on the floor. Make sure you are sitting straight. Rest your hands at the base of your skull with your fingers intertwined and the thumbs running by your ears and down your neck. Slowly ease your head back into your hands and turn your face to the ceiling. Inhale and then when you exhale, ease up on your left elbow, so it is pointed towards the ground. This will stretch the neck is a safe way. After two deep breaths, return to a neutral position and then repeat on the other side.

Seated backbend

Lazy posture over time can lead to a hunch that we associate with older people. The seated gentle backbend can help stretch the extensors in the spine and the anterior neck muscles. While seated with your feet flat on the floor, bring your hands to your lower back. Your fingers should be facing down, and thumbs should be wrapped around your hips. Press your hands into your hips and inhale. When you exhale, arch your spine back. Hold for five full, deep breaths. Return to the starting position and repeat three to five times.

Reach back

This is one of the better stretching exercises for senior’s flexibility. It can help improve range of motion in the shoulders. It also helps stretch chest muscles. For this exercise, sit with your spine straight and your feet firmly on the ground. Reach behind you and interlace your hands. You can also grab opposite wrists if you can’t interlace your hands. Inhale deeply and feel your spine growing as you actually sit taller. At this point you should try rolling your shoulders up and back. After three deep breaths in and out, release your clasp.

Seated Cat-Cow

Degeneration and osteoarthritis are common as we age but doing the seated cat-cow helps stretch the lower back muscles and core muscles to help keep the spine healthy. With your feet on the floor and your knees at a 90-degree angle, put your hands on your knees. Inhale, and as you exhale, press into your hands and arch your back using your spine. Your face should be toward the ceiling. When you exhale, roll your shoulders forward and pull your bellybutton toward your spine. At the same time, drop your chin toward your chest and push toward your knees with your hands. When you perform your next exhale, reverse the movement by pulling your chest through your arms and arching your spine, but press down into your legs as opposed to toward your knees.

Gentle twist

When it comes to easy stretching exercises for seniors, the gentle twist is a popular one. It is very good for lower back pain. You can do this exercise by planting your feet on the floor and placing your knees at a 90-degree angle. Make sure that you are a little forward on the chair. Inhale and press down into the seat. You should feel your spine lengthening as you lift your arms over your head. Exhale and turn gently to the right and then put your left hand on the outside of your right knee and your right hand wherever you want. Do the stretch again on the other side.

Chest stretch

There are a number of chair exercising stretches for seniors that can prevent injury. The simple chest stretch is another good chair exercise. Sitting up straight with your arms by your sides, pull your shoulder blades together and down toward the ground. Release after a few seconds.

Side stretch

For this exercise, you sit on a chair and lean over to one side but don’t collapse your upper torso, keep your abdominal muscles engaged and then repeat this move on the other side.

Ankle circles

Sitting back in the chair, lift one foot off the ground and slowly circle the ankle in one direction and then in the other direction. Repeat this exercise on the other side.

Head circles

Turn your head and look over your shoulder while sitting in a chair. Drop your chin and circle the head around and bring it up to look over the other shoulder.

Neck stretch

One way to stretch the neck to help maintain mobility is to slowly bring your chin toward your chest and turn your head side to side. Hold each position for about 15 seconds.

Quadriceps stretch

The large muscles at the front of your thigh are vital regarding walking and standing. To stretch the quadriceps, lying on your side, bend your knee and bring your foot behind you. Pull the foot towards your body to feel a stretch.

Calf stretches

Stand behind a chair, lightly touching it for balance. Extend your right foot behind you and bend the left knee slightly. Reach the right heel, keeping it on the ground. Hold for a few seconds then release and repeat on the other side.

Knee to chest:

This can relieve lower back tightness and also help the knee. Lying on the floor, extend your legs and place your arms at your sides. Pull your right leg toward your chest and hold it for 10 seconds. Repeat this movement up to five times with each leg.

Safety Tips While Performing Stretching Exercises

Easy stretching exercises for seniors should not cause any discomfort. You should only follow exercise instructions as far as they are comfortable. The movements should not cause you pain. If you can’t do the full-range of motion for some exercises, you will still be gaining benefits. As well, you have to remember that over time, your flexibility and strength will improve and you will find it easier to do the exercises.

Here are a few tips for doing stretching exercises:

  • Move slowly and gently
  • Warm up before stretching (i.e. walk)
  • Relax and breathe
  • Don’t hold your breath during stretches
  • Don’t curve your spine too far
  • Don’t bounce into a stretch to reach farther
  • Hold the stretch to help elongate muscles

You should always talk to a doctor before starting a new exercise, especially if you already have muscle or joint injuries. Those who have had previous surgeries may also need some extra guidance from their doctor or physiotherapist.

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Author Bio

Emily Lunardo studied medical sociology at York University with a strong focus on the social determinants of health and mental illness. She is a registered Zumba instructor, as well as a Canfit Pro trainer, who teaches fitness classes on a weekly basis. Emily practices healthy habits in her own life as well as helps others with their own personal health goals. Emily joined Bel Marra Health as a health writer in 2013.

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