It’s no secret that as we age our skin loses its elasticity, and we lose some muscle tone and bone density. Further, the water content decreases in our tendons which causes them to become stiffer. All of these components play a role in the natural decrease in our flexibility. But don’t fret, the good news is there are ways you can improve your flexibility as you age by doing flexibility workouts.
Maintaining and improving flexibility is vital if you want to maintain strong muscles and healthy joints. This will also improve balance which decreases your chances of falling. You’ll also have better workouts, better posture, and you’ll be able to perform your daily activities with ease. So let’s dive into some great exercises that can increase flexibility in seniors!
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A great way to improve your flexibility is to stretch. But before we dive into specific stretching exercises there are some things you need to be mindful of. To start, when stretching never force the stretch. If it feels painful that’s a good indicator you’re pushing too hard. Only stretch to where it feels comfortable.
Further, you also want to perform smooth, gentle movements, never bounce or jerk while stretching. Ensure you’re also breathing slow and steady during each stretch. Finally, if you want to obtain the most benefits from stretching it’s recommended that you stretch at least three times per week for about 10 to 15 minutes each day. Next, let’s explore some stretching exercises you can start doing!
Shoulder rolls are a great exercise to improve your range of motions in your shoulders and upper back area. These also help keep your rib muscles flexible too. This is important for daily activities that require reaching for items on a high shelf or reaching for items in general.
To start this exercise sit in a comfortable chair. Next raise your shoulders up, back, and then back down to the starting position. Then, repeat this expertise 10 times. If you want to increase the difficulty of this exercise try performing shoulder rolls while holding two to three-pound weights in your hands.
A “reach back” stretch is a great exercise to enhance your ability to reach behind you. It will also help with the range of motion in your shoulders and chest muscles.
To begin this stretch, stand with a chair behind you. Next, inhale while you interlace your hands behind your back. Then gently move your arms backward while exhaling. Hold the stretch for a moment and then return to the starting position. Try to repeat this exercise 10 times.
A lumbar flexion stretch is meant to target the lower back (lumbar spine) and the upper back (thoracic spine). Maintaining a flexible back will help prevent back pain and poor posture.
To start this exercise, sit up tall in a comfortable chair. Keep your shoulders down and back. Next, place your feet slighting out in front of you and place your hands on your knees. Then slowly slide your hands down your legs until you reach your feet. Hold the stretch for a few seconds then slowly slide your hands back up your legs to the starting position. Repeat 10 times.
Seated Hamstring Stretch
This stretching exercise is great for targeting your hamstrings (back of thighs) as well as your lower back. It will help improve your posture, increase flexibility, and help to prevent lower back pain.
To start this exercise begin in a seated position. Make sure you’re sitting up tall and then move to the front of the chair. Next, stretch one leg out straight out while keeping your hands placed on the opposite leg. Finally, with the leg that is stretched out, point your toes up towards the ceiling and hold the stretch for a moment and then repeat with the opposite leg.
Standing Quadriceps Stretch
Your quadriceps (front of thigh) play an important role in knee motion. Your quads are used whenever you straighten and bend your knee. Tension in your quadriceps can lead to not only knee pain but back pain too which can reduce your mobility. This is why stretching this area is so important.
To start this stretch, begin in a standing position next to a chair. Stand tall and hold onto the chair with one hand. Next, lift one leg behind you, holding onto your foot. Hold the stretch for a moment, return to the starting position, and then repeat with the other leg. It’s important to maintain a straight posture during this stretch and try your best to keep your knees next to each other.
Weak ankles are not good especially if you want to maintain your balance and prevent falls. Maintaining strong ankles will help you get out of the chair easily and will improve walking. This is why good flexibility in this area is so important.
To improve the flexibility in your ankles you’ll want to practice ankle circles. To start, sit in a comfortable chair and sit up tall. Next, extend one leg in front of you while keeping the other on the floor. Now rotate your ankle clockwise for about 10 to 20 rotations and then repeat counter-clockwise. Finally, lower your leg to the starting posting and repeat with the opposite leg.
Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
If you spend a lot of time sitting down then the kneeling hip flexor stretch is a great exercise for you! Stretching this area will help improve your posture and will improve your walking stride.
To start this stretch, kneel on the floor on both knees. If you’re kneeling on a hard surface consider rolling up a blanket or towel to lean on. Next, step your right foot forward keeping it flat on the floor. This knee should be at a 90-degree angle. Keep your left shin on the floor and your foot stretched out.
Next, while keeping both hands on your right knee, sink your body down. You can also move your right foot farther forward to increase the stretch. Ensure you are maintaining an upright body position to engage your ab muscles. Finally, hold this stretch for about 15-30 seconds and then repeat with the other leg.
Stretching regularly is great for maintaining flexibility but there are a number of other physical exercises that can help too. Tai Chi is a gentle, low-impact, slow form of exercise that is great for the body and mind.
Tai Chi focuses on circular movements that are never forced. This causes the muscles to be relaxed instead of tense. Further, this type of exercise encourages you to perform slow controlled movements, and breathe deeply. This all works towards increasing your flexibility as well as coordination, and strength. Better yet, Tai Chi can be easily adapted making it great for everyone.
There are many health benefits of dancing like improving your flexibility. But that’s not all, dancing can also help strengthen your bones and muscles which keeps them strong and healthy.
Some great ways to start is to find a dancing class in your area or you can dance for fun at home with a partner or by yourself. You may also want to try out a Zumba class at your local gym. For those that don’t know, Zumba is a form of exercise that combines dance moves with fitness. There are so many ways you can start dancing and don’t forget to have fun with it!
Unlike weight training, yoga doesn’t focus on specific body parts but instead, it uses movements to help the whole body. Over time, yoga can help improve your balance, maintain bone health, improve muscle mass, and improve focus, and emotional wellbeing. Look for yoga classes in your area that are tailored to your age group!
Swimming is another excellent exercise you can do to improve your flexibility, especially in your hips, arms, legs, and neck. Further, swimming is also great for your joints because the buoyancy puts less weight on them.
Better yet, if you swim in a heated pool, the heat can have a relaxing effect on your body which can also help improve your range of motion. Get started by signing up for a water aerobics class or swim for fun — your choice!