One of the biggest dangers of aging is a loss of mobility and strength. In fact, a 2013 study published in the Journal Clinical Interventions In Aging, found that strength and muscle mass decrease by between 30-50% as people go from the ages of 30 to 80. What’s more, people lose muscle at a rate of about 12-15% per decade after the age of 50.
Luckily, there are proactive steps you can take to stay healthy and limber as you age.
Staying Flexible Is Possible
Lots of people believe that it’s impossible to stay flexible as you age. Fortunately, this is not true. While it’s true that muscles atrophy and bones change as you get older, staying flexible at any age is as simple as incorporating just a few minutes of stretching into your everyday routine. In addition to helping you feel better, improving flexibility can also improve balance, decrease back pain, alleviate fatigue, and even help you feel clearer and sharper mentally.
10 Stretches To Practice As You Age
Ready to reap the benefits of flexibility in your life? Here are ten stretches to try as you age.
1. Front Hip Stretch
The front of the hip can get surprisingly tight, especially for people who sit all day long. To stretch it out and restore mobility to the area, try the front hip stretch. Here’s how it works:
Begin by sitting on a fitness ball.
From there, straighten your right leg out behind you and stabilize your weight by pressing your toes into the floor and raising your right heel.
Rest your hands on your left knee and use your arms to push your upper body backward gently. You should feel the stretch across the front of your right hip. Switch sides and hold for between 15 and 30 seconds.
2. Standard Chest Stretch
Like the hips, the chest gets tight from extended sitting. To stretch it out and improve your posture at the same time, start standing in an erect position. From there, clasp your hands behind your low back and gently raise your arms as far as you can. Keep your head held high, your shoulders back, and your chest lifted. Hold the pose for 10 seconds.
3. Standard Shoulder Stretch
If your shoulders are tight from exercise or sleeping awkwardly, loosen them up with the stretch. Start standing in an upright, erect position. From there, cross your right arm directly over your chest and hook your left forearm around your elbow. Use the leverage to gently pull the right arm into your chest, stretching the right shoulder. Hold the stretch for between 10 and 15 seconds before switching sides.
4. Side Body Stretch
Even if you don’t think about the muscles that run down your ribs and into your hips, they’re critical for posture and overall comfort. To keep them limber start by standing with your feet hip-width apart.
From there, place your left hand on your left hip and raise your right arm to the sky. Gently bend to the left, using your left arm to support your weight. Make a “C” shape with your body, stretching your right side body for 10 to 15 seconds before switching sides.
5. Neck And Shoulder Stretch
To stretch your neck and shoulders, move your arms in front of you with your elbows touching, and your hands pointed towards the sky, palms facing you. From there, place the palms of your hands on top of your head and use your arms to gently drop your chin to your chest and exert mild downward pressure on the top of your head.
You should feel the stretch in your neck and shoulders. Be sure that you’re not using too much pressure, or you risk injury.
6. The Toe Touch
Allow your back the opportunity to get long and loose by doing a simple toe touch. To start the stretch, stand with your feet hip-width apart. From there hinge at the hips and extend your arms down toward your toes, keeping as flat a back as possible the entire time.
When you reach the point of maximum extension, you can grab opposite elbows and dangle like a ragdoll to take the stretch further.
7. The Hula Hoop Stretch
The hula hoop stretch is a great one for anybody who sits for long periods of the day or occasionally uses a wheelchair to get around. Designed to increase mobility and loosen tension in the hips, the hula hoop stretch is perfect for seniors of all ages.
To start, stand with your feet together and your hands on your waist. From there, begin to circle your hips slowly, as if you were keeping a hula hoop in the air. Keep your back straight, head high, and chest lifted.
8. Triceps Stretch
The triceps stretch is ideal for anyone who feels tension in their arms. To start, stand with your feet hip-width apart and your chest up. From there, take your right arm and reach it over your shoulder, with your elbow pointing toward the sky, and your palm touching the back of your right shoulder.
Then, take your left hand to the ceiling and place your fingers on your right elbow. Exert gentle tension to deepen the stretch. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds before switching sides.
9. The Hand Stretch
The hand stretch is ideal for seniors who write, type, or draw often, or those who have arthritis in their hands or fingers. To do the stretch, start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. From there clasp your hands together in front of you. Once you’ve done that, turn your hands out so that the palms are facing away from you and the fingers are still interlocked. Gently push out, so you feel the stretch in the backs of your fingers and hands.
10. The Low Back Stretch
Perfect for anyone who wants to stretch their low back but isn’t quite ready to commit to a full downward dog, the low back stretch helps extend the muscles of your back. You’ll need a chair or table for the stretch.
To get started, stand with your feet hip-distance apart and your arms hanging loosely at your side. From there, bend your knees gently to prevent overextension, and begin to hinge forward at the hips.
Extend your arms in front of you and reach them toward the chair or table. At the full extension of the stretch, your back should be flat, and your hand should be on the chair or table, with a straight line from your arms to your hips and your hips to your ankles. Lean your weight back gently to extend the stretch.
Greater Flexibility Starts Here
Even if you’re not planning on taking up yoga anytime soon, these simple, at-home stretches are ideal for helping you stay limber, comfortable, and flexible throughout your golden years. They’re also ideal for anyone who wants to prevent injury, stay strong, and enjoy a higher quality of life during the aging process.