As you age, your muscles and tendons gradually lose their elasticity. This is why it’s important to stretch regularly – to maintain flexibility and joint range of motion.
Research shows that flexibility of older adults declines at an average rate of 1% every year. While that might not seem like much, over time it adds up and can lead to chronic pain.
Even if you’re not very active, or you haven’t yet explored yoga for seniors, stretching every day can make a big difference in your quality of life as you get older. Regular stretching can help keep you fit, limber, and prevent the risk of injury.
Before we go into the seven best stretches for seniors, let’s see what science says about how often you should stretch.
How Often Should Older Adults Stretch?
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, stretches are most effective for seniors when you:
- Do it at least 2-3 times a week, but preferably daily
- Hold static stretches for 30-60 seconds
- Stretch to the point of feeling tightness or slight discomfort
For the best results, try to create a morning stretch routine that’s as typical to your day-to-day as brushing your teeth. Just take a few minutes each day to loosen up your muscles and joints and you’ll reap the benefits in no time.
Before you dive into the stretching routine, use our fitness guide and try to determine how fit and flexible you are right now. If you’re below- or above-average for your age, adjust the length of each stretch accordingly.
Here are some simple stretching exercises that you can do at home, without any special equipment —there are no obstacles to starting a stretching exercise routine.
Give them a try. You may be surprised at how good they feel.
7 Simple Stretching Exercises for Older Adults
#1 Arm Opener
If you spend a lot of time sitting, you might feel stiff in the shoulders and upper arms.
The arm opener stretch is one of the easiest and most effective stretches for seniors. It targets the shoulder muscles and triceps, which tend to get tight from extended periods of sitting.
Here’s how to do it:
- Stand with your back straight
- Clasp your hands behind your back
- Keep your elbows straight and lift both arms forward and up until you feel a slight stretch in the shoulder
- Hold the stretch for 30-60 seconds before relaxing
Feels good, doesn’t it?
#2 Knees to Chest
The knees to chest stretch is a great way to improve flexibility and mobility in your hips and spine.
To perform this stretch:
- Lie on your back on the floor and bring your knees up to your chest
- Hug your knees with your hands and hold the position for 30-60 seconds
You can even perform this stretch in your bed when you wake up.
#3 Cobra Stretches
This stretch is amazing to help you lengthen and open the chest.
To do the cobra stretch:
- Start by lying on your stomach with your forehead resting on the floor and your legs shoulder-width apart
- Place your hands flat on the floor next to your shoulders, and press down as you slowly lift your head, neck, and chest off of the floor
- Press your tailbone to the floor and lengthen your spine
- Hold for 30-60 seconds before lowering yourself back down
As you gain strength and flexibility, you can further refine the movement by gently lifting your navel and straightening your arms fully. This advanced version even strengthens your lower body.
#4 Child Pose
Another great stretch for the hips, spine, and shoulders is the child pose. It can also help improve posture.
How do you do it?
- Sit on your heels with your arms stretched out in front of you
- Lean forward and rest your forehead on the floor
- Make sure you keep your back and arms straight without pushing to reach further
- Hold the pose for 30-60 seconds
If you take a couple of deep breaths while doing the child’s pose, you’ll feel the stress melt away as you reap the benefits of mindfulness.
#5 Quad Pull
This low-impact exercise increases your short-term range of motion and stimulates blood flow. It also significantly reduces the risk of injury.
Here’s how to do it:
- Stand up straight
- Bend one knee and grab the bottom of your foot with both hands
- Pull on the foot until you feel a gentle stretch in your quadriceps muscle
- Be sure to keep your back straight and not arch it
- Perform this stretch on both sides of the body
This stretch is best performed when you’re already warmed up to prevent any injuries. Start with a light walk and then proceed to do the quad pull for the best results.
#6 Yo-Yo Stretches
Yo-yo stretches are great for seniors to align the spine, improve spinal health, and reduce the likelihood of back pain.
Here’s how to do them:
- Stand with your feet at shoulder width and your toes slightly pointed outward
- Bring your hands together six inches in front of your chest
- Face your palms away from you and place your elbows out to either side
- While maintaining your torso upright, turn your arms from side to side until you feel a slight stretch
- Lead with your elbows and keep your head in line with your body
- Repeat 10-15 times
This funny-sounding stretch is bound to relieve you of the nuisance of back pain.
#7 Ankle Stretches
This stretch may aid in the improvement of flexibility and range of motion in your ankle. You can do this stretch standing, sitting, or lying down.
To do the rotation ankle stretch, we recommend you:
- Sit on a chair or lie down
- Place your left ankle over your right knee
- Keep your back straight
- Hold onto your left ankle with your left hand and gently pull your ankle towards you and start moving it in a circular motion
- Repeat the movement for 30 seconds
- Switch legs and repeat
Ankles are often overlooked but it’s one of the most important joints in your body. It only takes a few minutes, and the benefits are well worth the effort.
Morning Stretch Routine
In today’s world, it seems like we’re always in a rush. We’re always on the go, and we never have time for ourselves.
And yes, this busyness can happen during retirement, too.
Even if your schedule is more open, one of the most important things you can do for your health in retirement is to make time for a morning stretch routine.
Stretching first thing in the morning can help you feel more awake and alert throughout the day, it can improve your circulation, and it can help loosen up any stiffness or tension you may have from sleeping.
So if you’re looking for a way to start your day off on the right foot, try adding in some of these seven simple stretches.
Which of these will you incorporate into your morning stretch routine?