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8 Stretching Exercises for Seniors

Healthy Living | April 26, 2024

An older couple doing stretching exercises for seniors on yoga mats in a park.

Staying active as you age is important to maintaining and even improving your mobility and health in your older years. Studies find that adults over the age of 65 should get at least two and a half hours of physical activity per week to promote longevity and prevent or delay common health problems associated with aging. If you’re looking for a way to implement more movement into your day – consider adding stretching exercises to your fitness routine.

Stretching not only allows for greater movement in your joints, but also helps ease muscle tension and back pain, reduces the risk of injury, and helps improve balance and coordination. These key benefits are critical to seniors who are looking to stay mobile and active throughout their retirement.

The best thing about stretching is that it’s approachable to seniors of all ability levels and can be done almost anytime and anywhere. To help get you started, let’s take a look at seven of the best stretching exercises for seniors and how you can start implementing them into your fitness routine today.

Stretching Exercises for Seniors

Stretching exercises for seniors are perfect for releasing tension in your muscles and easing joint pain. Each of these exercises are quick, easy, and can be done at home without any need for workout equipment.

To improve your balance and mobility, you should aim for 15-30 minutes of daily activity (like walking, biking, or chair yoga) and perform the following stretches and exercises. If you are not used to stretching exercises, you may need a few pointers to get started. To get the most out of your stretch without overdoing it, follow these tips:

  • Before stretching, warm up your body with 5-10 minutes of light movement such as walking.
  • As you stretch, be sure to take deep breaths and slowly exhale as you go through the movements.
  • Try your best to hold each stretch for the recommended time. If you are unable to, hold the stretch as long as you comfortably can. 
  • Take breaks as frequently as you need to give your muscles ample time to relax.
  • Only hold a stretch until you feel tension in the muscle, not to the point of pain.

With these tips in mind, let’s take a look at each exercise and how it helps you improve your mobility and general wellbeing.

Shoulder Stretch

Shoulder stretches are great at increasing the range of motion in your shoulder and chest muscles. If maintaining independence is important to you as you age, shoulder mobility is important. These stretches help with daily activities such as getting dressed or getting items off the top shelf in your kitchen.

How to do it: Start by standing upright with your feet about hip-width apart. Reach your right arm across your body toward your left shoulder. Then, place your left hand on your upper right arm, and gently draw your right arm closer. Hold this stretch for about 10 to 30 seconds. You can then release, switch arms, and repeat the stretch.

Neck Stretch

Waking up with a stiff neck can throw off your entire day. You can improve the range of motion in your neck with this stretch which targets your upper back and scapular muscles.

How to do it: You can begin this stretch standing or sitting. If you are seated, be sure to sit upright to get the full benefits of this exercise. Begin by slowly lowering your chin toward your chest. Then, move your head toward the right and hold that stretch for 15 seconds. Repeat by turning your head toward the left and holding it for another 15 seconds. Slowly return your head upright and repeat the stretch as necessary.

Chest Stretch

Poor posture is rather common in older adults and can often cause the muscles of the chest to tighten over time. Chest stretching exercises can help relax these muscles – easing chest tightness and improving posture and lung functioning.

How to do it: This stretch begins either standing near a wall or seated upright. Begin by extending both of your arms to the side with your palms facing outward. Then, gently reach back with your hands until you feel a stretch across your chest and front of your arms. If this stretch feels challenging, don’t be afraid to use a wall to help support yourself as you ease into the stretch. Hold the stretch for 15 seconds before taking a break – then repeat.

Calf Stretch

Does your leg ever feel stiff while walking? Even the most active of seniors may find that their calf muscles have become tighter over the years. Through some simple stretching, you can ease your calf muscle pain and regain some mobility.

How to do it: Start by standing upright and facing the wall. Stand about 3 feet back and put your right foot behind you with your toes facing forward. With your heel on the ground, gently lean forward with your right knee straightened and your arms on the wall for balance. 

You should feel a strong stretch in your calf muscle. If you begin to feel pain or that you are overstretching, reposition yourself and try again. Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds before repeating on the other side.

Hamstring Stretch

Like your calf muscle, the health of your hamstring is critical to maintaining mobility throughout your older years. Hamstring stretches increase your ability to lean forward and the overall flexibility of your lower back and legs.

How to do it: Begin this stretch by sitting near the edge of a bench or chair. Extend one leg outward with your heel touching the ground and your toes extended forward. Gently bend forward until you feel a nice stretch in the back of your leg. Hold that position for 15 seconds, switch legs, and repeat.

Knee to Chest Stretch

This stretch is perfect for seniors who experience frequent joint pain in their knees and hips. 

How to do it: Start by lying on your back on a padded mat or mattress. Lift your knees up, bending them so that your feet are flat with the floor. Then, lift one knee toward your chest while keeping your lower back pressed to the floor. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds before lowering the knee to the starting position. Repeat with your other leg.

Hip Stretch

Hip stretches are ideal for those who could use some help loosening tightness in their hip joint and those who want more flexibility in their hip flexors. 

How to do it: While sitting in a chair, cross your right leg over your left so that your right ankle is resting on your left knee. Then, gently press down on your right leg and knee until you feel a stretching sensation in your hip. Hold this stretch for 15-30 seconds before swapping to your other leg. Then repeat.

Take Steps to Enjoy Your Retirement to the Fullest

A good stretching exercise routine is critical for older adults to stay mobile and flexible as they age. It is equally as important to go at your own pace to avoid overstretching. Don’t be afraid to start stretching slowly and gradually work your way up to a comfortable workout routine. Every step counts when trying to improve your general health and wellbeing.

Implementing stretches into your fitness routine is just a part of making the most of your retirement years. Interested in finding the best senior living option for your personal lifestyle and needs? National Church Residences can help. Find out which senior living options are in your area or give us a call at 844-465-6063 to talk to one of our friendly staff members today.

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