Getting in a good stretch is important for more than just yogis and athletes. For older adults, the benefits of stretching daily are significant: Staying flexible can help you maintain and improve your mobility, keeping you healthy in retirement.
Here's how to start your own daily stretching routine and stay limber in retirement.
Physical and Mental Benefits of Stretching
Stretching isn't a once-in-a-while activity. In order to reap the benefits, aim to stretch regularly — at least two to three times a week.
Evidence shows that holding stretches may improve older adults' range of motion, which can help you stay limber as you go about daily life. Increased flexibility can also help you avoid injury, combat poor posture and reduce inflammation stemming from muscle tension. Flexibility is especially important in older age — everyone naturally loses some flexibility over the years, which can make it harder to climb stairs, pick things up off the ground and keep up with other movements important to daily life.
Stretching also has benefits beyond mobility: Lower-body stretching has been shown to increase blood flow throughout the body and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. The benefits of stretching daily also extend to mental well-being: Regular stretching may increase mood-boosting hormones and reduce the risk of depression and anxiety.
Precautions When Stretching
Your routine might include different kinds of stretching. The two main types are static and dynamic: Static stretches are stretches held for longer periods of time (several seconds or even minutes), while dynamic stretches involve moving joints and muscles through several repetitions of a fluid movement.
An easy way to remember the difference is to think of dynamic stretches as "warm-up" moves you might perform before a workout, such as arm circles or hip circles. Static stretches, on the other hand, are stretches you would hold to reach deeper into muscles that are already warm from rigorous activity.
Experts warn against bouncing while you stretch, since this can cause injuries. You should also make sure you're warmed up before getting into your stretching routine — a few minutes of light activity such as walking and joint rotation will do the trick.
As you start doing your stretches, you might notice some mild discomfort, but stretching should never be painful. If a stretch causes pain, shift to a gentler position.
Simple Stretches to Try
Here are a few simple stretches to include in your routine:
- Neck stretch. Relieve tension in upper body muscles with a simple neck stretch: Gently pull your head down toward one shoulder to feel the stretch in the opposite side of your neck. Repeat on the other side.
- Hip stretch. While standing up straight with your hands on your hips, rotate your hips as if you were moving a hula hoop. Repeat a few times in a counterclockwise motion before trying the stretch in the opposite direction.
- Side stretch. From either a seated or standing position with your arms stretched overhead, lean your upper body to the right to feel a stretch through your left midsection. Hold and then repeat on the other side.
Stretch Regularly for Mobility and Health
As you create your weekly exercise routine, remember to incorporate stretching at least two to three times a week to help maintain mobility and flexibility. For a more structured stretching regimen, consider joining a local yoga class or meeting with a physical therapist or trainer.
This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Please consult your doctor before starting any exercise or stretching routine.