Though some people can effortlessly contort themselves into any spine-twisting yoga pose, not all of us are naturally limber. Stretching has numerous benefits though, including improving your flexibility and range of motion. It can also improve your posture and can even help you lessen or prevent back pain. For seniors, increasing your range of motion can help you prevent injuries, pain, and stress.
Here are some tips to help you get started. As always, consult your doctor before starting a new exercise routine to minimize your risk of injury.
- Warm up with a little walking—get your blood flowing and muscles ready for stretching.
- Take your stretches slowly. Don’t bounce or force yourself to stretch more deeply than is comfortable as this can cause injury.
- Make it a goal to stretch every day. At the very least, try for three days a week.
Here are some simple stretches you can do at home with common items. Aim to complete each stretch 3-5 times per side and hold for at least 10 seconds.
Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, hold one end of a dish towel in your right hand. Raise your right arm above your head and bend it so the towel is hanging down your back, then grab the towel at your lower back with your left hand. Slowly pull the towel down until you feel the stretch in your shoulders and upper arms. Alternate sides until you have completed the stretch 3-5 times with both arms.
Stand near a wall with your arms out and palms flat. Your hands should not quite touch the wall. Lean forward until your palms are touching the wall and walk your hands up the wall until you feel the stretch in your arms, chest, and shoulders. Hold the position for 10-30 seconds and walk back down.
Sit on the floor with your arms and legs straight out in front of you, about shoulder width apart. Starting at your hips, bend forward. Keep your back and neck as straight as possible as you bend toward your feet and reach for your shins. You can try to touch your toes, but it’s okay if you don’t reach. You should feel a stretch, but not pain. Hold for 10-30 seconds.
Sitting straight in a chair with your feet on the floor, look straight ahead. Slowly, turn your head to one side until you feel a light stretch. Hold this position for 10-20 seconds, then slowly turn your head back to a neutral position. Repeat on the other side.
Bonus Neck Stretch
This one requires a specific device—The Neck Hammock—and 10 minutes of your time. The Neck Hammock is a portable, miniature hammock that supports your head and neck and uses gravity to gently and gradually stretch your neck and relax tense muscles. All you have to do is wrap the elastic bands around your door handle, close the door, and lie down. Then, gently recline your head in the hammock and let your neck pain melt away.
It’s easy to start stretching, and flexibility will come as you stick with it.