When it comes to getting your body in motion, one of the simplest and most effective forms of exercise is stretching. Aging does not mean you will automatically lose your flexibility. The pain and stiffness that many individuals associate with aging begins as temporary tensions that become learned habits if the individual does not begin counterbalancing the effects of their increased stiffness. When muscles begin to tighten, they cease to be elastic and thus can restrict movement. With increased stiffness and restriction, elderly individuals may begin to limit movements that require stiff muscles, leading to disuse.
Besides being a good form of exercise for the elderly, stretching also improves strength and endurance and decreases the impact of injury. The best part about stretching is that it can be done anywhere and does not require any special equipment. Before beginning a stretching regimen it is best to consult with your doctor to see what stretches are the most safe and effective for you or your loved one’s body type. Before stretching, it is always important to remember to:
- Warm up prior to stretching
- Never overextend while stretching, stretching should not cause pain and should be gentle
- Breath during your movements, never hold your breath while stretching
- Keep your back straight
- When moving your head from side to side, never move it too quickly
- If you experience any pain, re-evaluate the stretch or simply stop
Tips for Efficient Stretching
- The best time to stretch your muscles is immediately following a workout, since your muscles are already warm. Stretching helps to alleviate the soreness you experience while working out, and helps increase blood circulation. Stretching after a warm bath or shower is another effective time to stretch.
- Engage in static stretching, meaning avoid bouncing or over-reaching. Once you have stretched your muscle to an elongated position, there is no need to continue to stretch any further. Simply hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Once a muscle has reached its maximum length, attempting to stretch it further will cause undue stress to your ligaments.
Think of stretching as a reward for you body, an anti-aging measure that will keep your body running properly as your age progresses. Stretching should bring you peace both physically and mentally. Allow yourself to relax while enjoying
stretching’s many benefits.