Flexibility in Older Adults


To maintain a healthy body and mind, as you age, regular exercise is essential. In fact, studies have shown that exercise over long periods will produce amazing health benefits for seniors.

For example, exercising about 30 minutes a day not only helps older adults maintain independence by reducing disease and risk of falls, but also helps lift spirits by producing feel-good endorphins from the brain.

Exercise will also increase muscle stamina and strength, help reduce insomnia, and even lowers the risk of dementia. Another important benefit of exercise is increased flexibility.

Benefits of Flexibility

Flexibility is the joint’s ability to move through its full range of motion. Some people are naturally more flexible. The ability to stretch and bend depends on age, gender, genetics, and body type. Due to their body shape, women are generally more flexible than men. For instance, women tend to outnumber men in yoga classes. As the body ages, it becomes less flexible. This is usually due to inactivity. However, like any form of exercise, flexibility can be increased with regular practice.

While many seniors work out on a regular basis, either through cardiovascular activity or weight training, they often skip flexibility exercises. However, flexibility is important. After all, you bend and stretch every day. Whether its bending over to tie your shoes, reaching for an item on the top shelf of your pantry, or turning your head to check for traffic while driving, it’s important to maintain flexibility. Furthermore, poor flexibility of the lower back and hamstrings can contribute to back pain. Above all, being more flexible helps to reduce stiffness, prevent injuries, and maintain good range of motion in the joints.

How to Maintain and Increase Flexibility

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests the following guidelines for flexibility training:

  • Stretch regularly, at least once a day.
  • Stretch after a short warm-up (walk or bike ride) of your muscles or after your regular workout.
  • Perform basic stretches using the upper and lower body.
  • Hold the stretch steady for 10 to 30 sections. Do not bounce as this can lead to a muscle tear.
  • Relax then repeat the same stretch two to three times.
  • Stretch both sides of your body to stay in balance.
  • Stretch within your limits. Don’t push yourself; listen to your body.
  • Do not stretch if you have pain in a particular joint or part of your body.
  • Stop the stretch if it causes pain.
  • Remember to breathe slowly and naturally while stretching. Do not hold your breath.
  • Use slow, steady movements. Do not rush or use jerky, unsteady motions.
  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing.
  • Stay calm and composed. Enjoy this quiet time.
  • Click on the link below from the National Institutes of Health for a guide to flexibility exercises.





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