5 Stretching Exercises for Seniors
We lose flexibility and muscle strength as we age. This frailty and impaired range of motion make everyday activities, like getting out of bed and going down the stairs, feel more challenging. Stretching helps tendons and ligaments respond to movement. Seniors specifically should stretch their significant muscle groups twice a week for at least 10 minutes. Century Medical Center recommends these gentle flexibility exercises for seniors to help maintain their range of motion:
Chest Stretch for Seniors
Loosening tight chest muscles is key to improving posture and reducing shoulder pain. Seniors can accomplish these exercises standing up or sitting down.
- Stretch both arms out in front of you, parallel to the floor, and slowly open them, so they extend from your sides with your palms facing forward.
- Move your arms back as much as possible to squeeze your shoulder blades together without causing pain.
- Maintain an upright posture.
- If you struggle to keep your arms lifted on your own, position your arm against a wall corner. Gently press your arm against the wall and step forward to stretch the chest.
Tricep Stretch for Seniors
Stretching the arms prevents carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis. Tricep stretches not only lengthen the arm muscles and increase the range of motion in the upper body, but they boost circulation in the shoulders, neck, and back for a freer range of motion.
- Stand or sit with your feet positioned hip-width apart.
- Raise both arms over your head.
- Slowly bend an arm behind your head and place the opposite hand on the elbow to lightly press it downward.
- Keep squeezing until you feel slight pressure and stretch in the arm and shoulder area.
Lower Back Exercise for Seniors
Maintaining spine mobility is essential to good posture. Since the lower back becomes more sensitive as we age, seniors should perform lower back exercises sitting down. Lower back exercises increase blood flow to the spine and prevent pain by reducing stiffness.
- Sit at the edge of a steady chair with your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart.
- Straighten your back and twist your upper body to one side while keeping your feet in place.
- Lengthen your spine as best you can, but do not push too far that it causes pain.
- Gently untwist and try the other side.
Hip Flexor Exercise for Seniors
Hip flexors are muscles in the front of your hip (in the upper thigh, near the pelvic region) that help you flex your hips and bend your knees. A sedentary lifestyle can cause your hip flexors to feel tight, resulting in glute, neck, or lower back pain. Simple hip flexor exercises like the butterfly stretch can help seniors lengthen these muscles.
- Sit upright on the floor and press the bottoms of your feet together.
- Let your knees spread and extend outward.
- For an added stretch, gently push down on the knees
- Stop when you feel increased pressure on the hips and flexor muscles.
Hamstring Stretch for Seniors
Hamstrings span from the back of the thigh to below the knee. They allow you to bend your knee and straighten your leg behind you. Tight hamstrings are common in individuals of all age groups, particularly in seniors. For this reason, there are hamstring stretches they can perform sitting down.
- Sit down on a chair and place another chair in front of you.
- Raise one foot on the seat and straighten the leg until you feel a stretch in the hamstring and calf muscles.
- Bend your torso forward while exhaling for an additional stretch.
- Stop if you feel leg or back pain.
Stretching Tips for Seniors
- Breathe deeply and slowly exhale as you stretch.
- Hold each stretch for 3 to 5 breath cycles.
- 1 inhale + 1 exhale = 1 compete breath cycle.
- Repeat the stretches at least 3 times, but be sure to give the muscle ample time to relax.
- Avoid bouncing while you stretch to avoid injuries.
- Stretch until you feel tension in the muscle, but not to the point of pain.
Century Medical Center understands the importance of stretching and exercising to improve mobility and prevent injuries as the body ages. For this reason, we offer personal physical therapy services and host exercise classes for seniors to socialize and stretch in a safe, controlled environment. Century has the best doctors, physical therapists, and massage therapists to help you live the active, healthy, and happy life you are entitled to.