As we age, a lot of strange (and uncomfortable) things happen to our bodies. One of these things involves changes with our joints and range of motion. When we become seniors, often we are less active than before, which causes loss of fluid in the joints. The muscle strength and flexibility of seniors decline, making it harder to get out of bed, in and out of chairs, or walking up and down the stairs. The chest muscles also tighten up, pulling their shoulders forward which can cause a rounded back posture or cause seniors to walk bent forward.
The good news is that there are range of motion stretching exercises that seniors – and their families – can do to lubricate the joints and lengthen and stretch the muscles and tendons, which improves flexibility.
Seniors who do regular stretching activities see an improvement in their posture and find that their joints can move through their full range of motion. Stretching exercises also reduce the risk of injuries, increase blood circulation, improve balance and coordination, and enhance muscle control.
Here are some of the best range of motion stretching activities seniors can do to improve their flexibility. Don’t forget to buddy up with a friend, family member, or home caregiver in order to stretch safely!
1. Neck Stretches
Neck stretches help improve the posture of seniors and assist them to keep their head straight, upright, and loose which is needed when driving.
2. Shoulder and Upper Arm Stretches
Seniors need strong shoulders and arms to do everyday activities such as getting dressed or picking items up from a shelf.
Hold a towel or elastic resistance band in one hand over your head and let the other side fall behind your back.
Grab the loose end with your other hand and gently pull your arm down until you feel the stretch.
3. Chest Stretches
Strengthening chest muscles helps seniors with their posture and presses their shoulders back so that they don’t develop a rounded back.
Extend both arms to the side with your palms facing forward.
Reach to the back until you feel a stretch across the front arms and chest.
If you have a difficult time keeping your arms up, rather opt for a doorway stretch. This stretching exercise works the same way, except that you do it with the help of a doorframe. Put your arms against the frame and take a step forward. Be careful not to overstretch your muscles.
4. Lower Back Stretches
Lower back stretches help seniors maintain the mobility of their spine and also improve their posture.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet together. Your feet should be flat on the floor.
While keeping the knees together, lower your legs to one side and twist your torso until you feel a stretch.
Hold the stretch for a few seconds and repeat on the other side.
5. Hip Stretches
Seniors, especially women, need to stretch their hips if they sit a lot to keep those muscles lean.
Lie on your back while bending your knees.
Bring one knee out to the side of your body.
Rest your foot against the opposite leg and gently push down until you feel the stretch.
Hold for a few seconds and repeat on the other side.
6. Quadriceps Stretches
Seniors need strong quadriceps – the large muscles in the front of the thigh – to stand or walk around.
Lie on one side and bend the upper knee, folding your foot behind you.
Pull your foot towards your back until you feel the stretch.
If you cannot reach your foot, use a towel or elastic resistance band to draw your foot nearer.
7. Hamstring Stretches
Weak hamstrings can make it difficult for seniors to walk and can contribute to lower back pain.
Lie on your back and extend one leg at a 90-degree angle to the body.
Hold your leg around the back of your thigh and pull the leg towards you.
Keep the other leg and your hips firmly on the ground, and don’t pull on the knee.
If you can’t reach your thigh, you can also use a towel or elastic resistance band to make it easier.
8. Ankle Stretches
Stiffness in the ankles causes poor balance and makes it difficult to walk or to get up and down stairs.
Sit in a chair and slowly move your foot up and down, and then side to side.
Hold each position for a few seconds and repeat on the other side.
Range of Motion Stretching Tips and Precautions
Although range of motion stretching activities are great to keep seniors flexible and their muscles lubricated, caution should be taken to not overextend the body. Here are some range of motion stretching tips and precautions seniors should take in mind:
Seniors should always consult their doctor or physical therapist before trying new exercises, especially if they’ve had any joint or muscle injuries before.
It’s advisable to warm up by walking around for 5-10 minutes before seniors start their range of motion exercises.
Seniors can hold each stretch for 30-60 seconds to give the muscles enough time to relax and get a good stretch. While stretching, seniors should feel a tension in their muscles, but not pain.
Stretching exercises work best when done each day, but at least twice a week for 10 minutes will suffice.
Take a deep breath and slowly exhale while stretching. Senior should never hold their breath while doing the exercises.
Bouncing while doing stretching exercises will increase the risk of injuries.
These exercises are great to improve flexibility and range of motion of the muscles throughout the body. It’s easy to do, and seniors only need minimal equipment.
If you or your senior loved one need any help or advice with your stretching exercises, please get in contact with Alegre Health Care. We’re always ready to help seniors increase their flexibility and improve their quality of life.