Today I want to share the two best stretches for seniors and the elderly in my opinion. They are very simple and effective for keeping your mobility good and limbs limber.
It’s no secret that we lose flexibility and mobility as we age. Our connective tissues become less elastic and joints become stiffer.
The good news is that it’s possible to fight against these age-related changes by doing mobility and strength exercises. Muscles, tendons, and joints that are being used daily on their full range of motion will not become stiff easily.
Many people avoid stretching because they think it’s time-consuming, uncomfortable, and boring. Well with these two stretches you can stretch your whole body in two minutes.
That’s right. Two minutes. It might take a while to gain enough mobility to perform these exercises but once you do, it is enough to do them daily for a minute each to keep your mobility good.
Let’s start by looking at why exactly mobility and flexibility are so important for older people.
Why Is Mobility And Flexibility Important
Flexibility is the range of motion your joint can achieve passively, which means not with your own muscles but with external help. Mobility means the range of motion your joint can move actively, using your own muscles.
When we stretch we are usually improving our flexibility because most stretches are done by using external support like a wall or the floor to artificially stretch the joint over a longer range of motion.
Because flexibility improves the possible range of motion, it will usually increase mobility as well. But this is only true if the agonistic muscle or muscles are strong enough to pull and support the joint in the increased range of motion.
This is why stretching should be seen as a tool to improve flexibility and strength training as a tool to improve mobility. Performing a full range of motion strength training with a flexible joint will make it mobile.
So why is mobility important? The first obvious reason is that it simply helps your body move as it’s supposed to. Immobile joints and tight muscles will lead to bad posture and joint issues among other things.
Good mobility is important for improving balance. If your joints are flexible and strong, you can regain balance much faster and in much more extreme positions without injuring yourself.
This brings us to injury prevention. If you do fall or suffer any kind of accident where your joint is overextended, flexibility will reduce the risk of injury. Stiff tendons and muscles are simply pulled and torn easily, this goes for sports and work as well.
Stretch 1: The Deep Squat
The first stretch I recommend is a very simple and natural position that will stretch pretty much all the muscles of your legs and hips in a very functional way.
I’m talking about the deep squat. The ability to get in and out of a steep squat without too much effort is something every healthy adult should strive for. That goes for seniors as well.
That said, there are conditions and individual limitations that can make performing the squat painful or even dangerous, so always consult a doctor or a qualified trainer before attempting it.
The squat is so great because it stretches all the large muscle groups of the legs and the hips. In a deep squat position your knees go forward, stretching your calves, your quads and glutes are fully extended, the hips adductors are stretched and the hamstrings go through a natural range of motion on both ends of the muscle.
Besides being a great stretch for leg muscles, the squat is simply great for the overall functionality of your lower body. It allows your legs to function as intended.
If you can’t get into a deep squat right away, don’t worry, most people can’t. You can perform assisted squats progressively until you can reach full depth. You can find a simple assisted squat progression in my free weight training routine for seniors.
Once you have the mobility to reach a deep squat, all you have to do is take a minute or two every day to stay in the squatting position.
If there’s one single movement that is better than anything else for keeping your leg mobility it’s the deep squat in my opinion. But mobility isn’t everything, you should also aim to improve strength in the squat as well. This is why performing bodyweight squats is great for improving leg strength and muscle mass in seniors.
You should keep in mind that when doing a squat stretch you should try to get as low as possible and open your hips as much as possible without any discomfort. You can fully relax in the bottom position and slowly work against any tightness.
But while performing squats as an exercise it’s more important to keep your midsection tight and focus on keeping tension in your hips and quads. You should never relax at the bottom of a squat when performing it as an exercise.
Stretch 2: The Door Stretch
The second stretch I want to share is the door stretch. It’s a very simple stretch that you perform in a doorway and is designed for stretching and opening the chest.
The reason this is so effective for seniors is that we tend to slouch forward as we age. This is partly because of tight muscles in the front of the torso and especially because of weak muscles in the back.
The door stretch allows you to gradually open up your chest and thoracic spine so you have the mobility to keep a good posture. If you have a good posture, a strong back, and can perform a full squat your mobility will be very good.
The door stretch will stretch your pectoral muscles and anterior deltoids, improve your shoulder mobility and help perceive the correct postural positions for the upper body.
If you have trouble keeping a good posture in your upper back and want to fast-track your posture improvement, you can also use a posture corrector in conjunction with strengthening your back and doing the door stretches.
Here’s a great video on YouTube about the door stretch.
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With these two stretches, you should be able to keep your body flexible and limber in older age almost effortlessly. If you have any questions or want to share your own recommendations, you can leave them in the comments section below.
Having good flexibility, mobility and functional strength are important for both health and independence as you age. A strong and limber body is more resilient and can withstand more when facing sickness or an accident.
The most important thing to remember is that almost anyone can improve their mobility and strength regardless of their age and background. You should never compare yourself to others, just strive to improve yourself over time. It’s never too late to get started!
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See you next time!