Wednesday March 3, 2021
Stretching Tips to Help Gain Flexibility and Reduce Pain
Of all possible exercises, stretching tends to be the most neglected, yet nothing is more vital to keeping an aging body limber and injury free.
As we age, decreased physical activity can cause our muscles to lose elasticity. This can make common day-to-day activities difficult—like reaching down to tie your shoes or looking over your shoulder to back your car out of the driveway.
The good news is, by incorporating some simple stretching exercises into your routine (at least three times a week) you can greatly improve flexibility, balance, posture and circulation. You can also relieve pain and stress and prevent injuries. Stretching is important as a warm-up and cool-down for more vigorous activities. Additionally, leg stretching is an excellent way to prevent nighttime leg cramps.
Stretching exercises should focus on muscles in the neck, shoulders, arms, chest, back, hips, thighs, hamstrings and calves. If you have had hip or back surgery, you should talk to your doctor before doing any lower-back flexibility exercises.
While stretching, it is very important to listen to your body. You only want to stretch each muscle group to the point where the muscle feels tight. If it starts to hurt, you have gone too far. Back off to the point where you do not feel any pain, then hold that stretch for about 10 to 20 seconds. Relax, then repeat three to five times, each time trying to stretch a little farther, but not bouncing. Bouncing greatly increases your risk of injury.
It is also a good idea to warm up a little before you start stretching by walking in place and pumping your arms. Always remember to breathe while you stretch. Also, keep in mind that muscles that have not been stretched in a while take time to regain their flexibility. So be patient and go slow.
If you do not have much experience with stretching, the National Institute on Aging offers a free online guide that provides illustrated examples of flexibility exercises to help you get started. Go to order.nia.nih.gov and type in “Exercise & Physical Activity: Your Everyday Guide from The National Institute on Aging.”
There are also senior fitness programs, like SilverSneakers and Silver&Fit, that currently offer online flexibility and balance videos that guide you through a series of stretching exercises you can do at home during the pandemic. There are also a wide variety of stretching exercise DVDs or videos you could purchase.
Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.