Health / Older Adult Fitness

10 Stretching Exercises Seniors Can Do Every Day

As you age, stretching can help you stay flexible, mobile, and, most of all, independent.

Tight muscles, stiff joints, and aches and pains—aging can take a toll on your body, but the good news is that stretching can help you feel better. Research indicates that stretching improves flexibility, promotes balance, and has the power to reduce pain or stress. Additionally, stretches that focus on posture and mobility can support daily activities and limit your risk of falling or injury. Check out these ten easy stretches for seniors and use them to get moving in a safe way.

Please be sure to get approval from your doctor before performing any of the below stretches.

Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

“One of my top stretches for seniors is the hip flexor stretch because most of us spend a lot of time sitting down either in an office or at home,” says Rob Jackson, a personal trainer at London-based Minimal FIT. “This shortens the hip flexor muscles. Stretching out this area helps with posture, spine alignment, and maintenance of a good walking or running stride.”

How to do this stretch:

Hold this stretch for 15-30 seconds, and then switch legs. To deepen the stretch, take deep breaths and relax on every exhalation.

Calf Stretch

“Ever feel like the back of your ankle is so tight that it becomes hard for you to squat down without losing your balance?” asks Dr. Fei Jiang, a physical therapist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center Performance Therapy in Santa Monica, California. If so, here’s a great stretch to address calf tightness that can be done against a wall.

How to do this stretch:

Hold for 30 seconds, and then repeat three times per side.

Seated Shoulder Stretch

According to personal trainer Becky Behling, shoulders are easily injured with age, and older adults often experience tight, weak muscles in the front of the chest and the back. She loves stretching this part of the body and offers an exercise that can be done standing or from a chair or seated position.

How to do this stretch, from a chair:

Repeat movements a few times, taking care to avoid pain in the shoulder area.

Seated Hamstring Stretch

“One of the culprits of sitting too much is the development of tight hamstrings, which can cause lower back pain with bending forward and poor posture with standing,” Dr. Jiang says. “The good news is that stretching the hamstrings is simple and can be done just about anywhere.”

How to do this stretch:

Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat three times per side.

Chest Stretches

If your chest or front shoulder muscles often feel tight, or your shoulders or upper back frequently feel rounded forward, then try these two stretches for seniors from a seated or standing position, notes Debra Atkinson, fitness professional and founder of Flipping 50.

How to do the first stretch:

How to do the second stretch:

Hold each one for 15 seconds, and release. Repeat two to three times.

Alternating Arm Reaches

“Having good posture not only makes you look better but also improves your balance and decreases neck pain,” Dr. Jiang says. “Poor posture is often the result of chest muscle tightness and upper back weakness, so look for stretches that help you ‘stand up taller.’”

How to do this stretch:

Hold for five seconds, and then put down your arm and repeat with the opposite arm. Do two rounds of ten sets per side.

Seated Spinal Stretch

“By the time a person becomes an octogenarian, spinal mobility has declined 25 percent in flexion, 33 percent in lateral flexion, and up to 50 percent in extension,” Behling says. “The outcomes of such decreases include pain, joint wear and tear, loss of muscle optimization, challenged mobility, and greater risk of tripping or falling.” As a result, spine stretches for seniors are key to health.

How to do this stretch:

Repeat as many times as comfortable.

Standing Side Reach

Tasks such as grabbing objects from a high shelf at home or the grocery store can be challenging, Dr. Jiang says, because they require shoulder and trunk flexibility as well as good balance. Practicing a standing side stretch can help you reach higher surfaces easier.

How to do this stretch:

Hold for five seconds, and then return to the starting position and repeat with the opposite arm. Do two rounds of ten sets per side.

Hip and Back Stretches

Though there are all kinds of ways to stretch your hips and back, Atkinson recommends two particular stretches for seniors who are able to get to the floor or a firm surface. These are passive, static stretches, so let gravity do most of the work. (Modification tip: You can prop pillows under your legs to reduce the intensity.)

How to do the first stretch:

How to do the second stretch:

Hold and breathe from each stretch for up to a minute.

Arm Across Chest Reach

“Being able to twist from your trunk not only helps you with dance moves but also increases the ease with the following functional movements: rolling over in bed, grabbing your seat belt, reaching across the table, and swinging arms as you walk,” Dr. Jiang explains.

How to do this stretch:

Hold for five seconds, and then return to starting position and repeat with the opposite arm. Do two rounds of ten sets per side.

Looking for more stretches for seniors? Make sure you’re stretching correctly, learn why you should never skip stretching, and check out these simple recovery stretches.

Health Older Adult Fitness

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