How Stretching Can Help Your Body As You Age

How Stretching Can Help Your Body As You Age

Flexibility can come at a premium as you age. You could struggle when getting up from a chair, bending down to pick something up or reaching to get something off a shelf. No matter the age, being flexible is essential to daily life. One way to keep your body’s elasticity as you grow older is stretching. 

Why Is Stretching Important?

For some people, stretching may seem tedious and time-consuming when you could dive right in and do the desired activity. However, it’s paramount for athletes of any caliber, whether you’re walking around the park or lacing up for an NBA game. You may see your physical abilities wane as you get older, but that doesn’t mean you must hang up the cleats forever. You can still do physical activity on a less strenuous level. 

Staying fit is critical at any age and even more important as you get older. Physical activity can lower the risk of diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and more in senior citizens. Exercise helps your immune system function better, which is essential for older adults because they could face compromised lungs. A better immune system has become more vital than ever due to COVID-19. 

Stretching is vital before you do exercise of any kind. If you’re sitting or lying down before you plan to exercise, your muscles will become tight. Stretching them out helps warm your body for whatever activity you’re about to do. You’ll feel a broader range of motion and more freedom to move around with less tightness, especially in your legs.

What Stretches Help Your Flexibility?

You can do different types of stretching, such as dynamic and static, before you perform physical activity. Static stretches are the basic ones you probably know best. You stand or sit still while holding one position for about 15-45 seconds. Dynamic stretches involve movement and they intend to improve your agility and acceleration.

Static stretches are relaxing and may be easier for you because you’ll feel more in control once you start your activities. Some examples of these stretches include:

  • Quad stretch: This stretch may be challenging to hold at first, but it will increase your flexibility over time. Start by standing on one leg. Grab the ankle of your opposite leg and bring it up to your midsection. Try holding the pose for at least 10 seconds and see if you can extend that time as you get better at it. Be sure to alternate legs.

  • Hamstring stretch: You can sit on the ground for this stretch. Extend one leg straight in front of you while bending the other, placing the foot against the knee of the leg you’re extending. If someone is standing behind you looking down, your legs should look like a lowercase “d.” Bend forward to prevent hamstring injuries before your activity. Be sure to stretch each leg.

  • Shoulder stretch: Shoulder stretches are best if you do them standing up. Spread your feet apart a little bit while slightly bending your knees. Take your left arm and place it across your chest. Use your right arm to push your left closer to your chest. Your right arm will help stretch your left shoulder. Count to 10 and then switch arms.

  • Dynamic stretches involve your body actively moving. Typically, your movements will imitate the type of exercise you’re about to do. They’re an effective way to warm your body up before physical activity. Some examples of dynamic stretching include:

  • Arm circles: Arm circles are relatively easy, and they’re an excellent way to increase mobility in your shoulders, biceps and triceps. You can do this one standing up or sitting down. Spread your arms out as if you’re making a T-shape with your body. Make circles with your arm while gradually increasing the size of the motions. You can start by moving your arms counterclockwise and then reversing after about 10 seconds. This exercise is fantastic before swimming.

  • Hip circles: Hip circles work similarly to arm circles. Doing these reps will help increase your range of motion with your legs and midsection. Start by standing on one leg. If you need to, hold onto something to maintain your balance. Take your leg in the air and swing it around in a circle. Do 20 rotations and then alternate your legs. You’ll be able to make larger motions as you become more flexible.

  • Leg pendulum: Leg pendulums are terrific stretches before you walk, jog or run. This warmup resembles a pendulum because your leg swings back and forth like it would inside a clock. Start by standing on one leg, like the hip circles. Take one leg and swing it forward and backward about 10 times. If you need help with balance, try holding onto the wall or another object.

  • How Does Stretching Benefit You?

    Flexibility is one of the primary benefits of stretching, but there are many more advantages. Extending your limbs adds so much to your physical and mental health and increases the longevity of your physical fitness. Stretching becomes essential as you age because your body may need more help performing exercises. 

    Here are five benefits of stretching before physical activity. You’ll find a regular stretching routine will help you feel better, both physically and emotionally.

    1. Reduce Injuries

    Your body becomes more susceptible to injuries as you age. Comparing your physical health at 55 is challenging compared to when you were 25. However, stretching is a practical way to prevent problems. Your muscles become tight when you’re sitting idly. You could strain yourself if you decide to exercise without stretching first. 

    Warming up before exercise helps your muscles become more flexible, allowing you to do any activity better. Forgetting to stretch can put your body at risk for joint pain, muscle damage and strains. Damaged muscles have trouble supporting joints, leading to injuries. 

    2. Improve Daily Activities

    Stretching helps with walking, swimming and other movements, but it also helps in your daily life. You’ll find everyday activities more manageable for your body and mind if you stretch daily. For example, regular stretching can help you bend down to pet your dog. It makes walking up the stairs easier, whether in your home, workplace or another building. 

    You may enjoy playing with your children or grandchildren. Stretching can increase your physical longevity and help you stay active longer. The young ones run around quickly, so it’s helpful to stretch and maintain your ability to play with them.

    3. Decrease Pain

    The previous day’s physical activity can leave you feeling sore and needing an ice bath when you get older. Stretching is an effective way to reduce the amount of pain and soreness in your muscles and is especially beneficial for people with arthritis or joint pain. Stretching helps lubricate joints and increase the range of motion for those with chronic conditions.

    An effective way to decrease pain by stretching is to do yoga. This discipline has roots in India dating back thousands of years and can positively affect your body. Yoga is a safe way to increase your energy as you age and reduce aches and pains in your body. 


    4. Increase Balance

    Your ability to balance may decrease as you get older. You may be more susceptible to falls, leading to severe injuries. Each year, about 36 million falls happen among older adults, and over 32,000 lead to deaths. About 3 million people must go to the hospital, and about 20% suffer from injuries like broken bones. 

    Regular stretching can help prevent these falls by promoting your body’s balance and improving your range of motion. Activities requiring awkward stances will be easier if your limbs become more flexible. Some stretches, such as for your quads, engage your muscles and train your body to become more flexible and maintain particular poses.  

    5. Boost Mental Health

    Stretching is a critical part of your physical health as you age, but did you know there are mental health benefits also? Stretching is an excellent way to reduce physical and psychological stress. Stress can cause tightened muscles in some people, creating chronic pain and discomfort in their joints. This feeling can cause mental anguish and unhappiness, making daily life challenging. 

    However, stretching can reverse the course of this pain. Regularly extending your limbs relaxes your muscles by reducing the amount of tension. Stretching can also increase your serotonin levels, which makes you feel happy and stabilizes your mood. An increase in this hormone can help decrease depression and anxiety.

    Stretching Your Physical Capabilities

    Physical activity may become more complex as you age. However, you can improve your physical fitness by stretching. This practice has many benefits for your body, including better balance, fewer injuries and reduced chronic pain. You’ll look and feel better when you warm your body before exercising. 

    You’re more likely to suffer from falls when you get older, so stretching can pay dividends in the long run. Make this a regular part of your daily routine to stay fit and limber as you age. There are too many benefits to ignore.

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