Overcoming the many aches and pains that come with living a long and active life can’t be achieved simply by luck.
As we age, we lose muscle mass and our muscles become tighter and less flexible, especially if they’re not exercised well. Add to that poor posture, injury, and diseases such as osteoarthritis, and muscles can fall prey to inflammation, spasms, and misalignments. Tight muscles get tighter, and weak muscles get weaker.
Many older adults don’t see the importance of flexibility work until they are hunched over and in constant pain, looking and feeling older than their years.
The secret to successful aging: Stay Flexible.
It’s easy to sneak stretching into your life. Simply incorporate stretches into your normal routine or while working at your desk… watching TV, but remember always stay safe.
Warm-up your muscles before you stretch by walking around for a few minutes first.
Don’t bounce through stretches. Instead, hold steady, extending slightly on the out-breath, but push only as far as comfortable.
Hold stretches for at least 30 seconds or as tolerated, not to one minute unless otherwise noted for individual stretches below.
You’re unlikely to notice immediate changes in your flexibility and range of motion, but if you keep up with daily stretching, you’ll notice subtle changes. It will be easier to bend over and tie your shoelaces… you’ll feel less stiff when you get out of bed in the morning.
Neck Exercise: The Turtle
- Pretend you’re holding an apple under your chin or keep your chin parallel to the floor.
- Inhale deeply. Exhale through your lips while pushing your chin forward.
- Inhale through your nose, and slowly return your head to the neutral position you started with. Repeat as many times as you like.
Shoulder Exercises: The Zipper
This exercise loosens the shoulder muscles. You can do it standing or sitting. As you become more flexible, you can eliminate the strap and try to grab your fingertips instead.
- Hold a strap in your right hand, and raise your arm above your head. Bring your right hand down behind your head. Grab the end of the strap with your left hand.
- Raise your right hand as high as is comfortable, lifting the left hand along with it. Hold. Perform two times on each side.
- Pull your left hand down to also bring your right hand down. Hold. Perform two times on each side.
- Switch sides and repeat.
Wrist Exercises: Seated Wrist Stretch
With all of the computer work and driving we do, our hands and wrists are prone to tightening up and cramping. This exercise targets both the wrists and the forearms.
- Sit in a chair, and rest your forearms on your thighs with your wrists dangling just beyond your knees. Make loose fists with your hands, and slowly lift your knuckles toward the ceiling. Hold.
- Lower your knuckles slowly toward the floor. Hold. Repeat this exercise as many times as feels comfortable.
Hand Exercises: V-W Stretch
This exercise targets the hands and fingers and can be helpful for wrist strain. While the instructions are for sitting, it can also be done standing.
- Sit with proper posture in a stable chair. Rest your hands on your thighs, palms facing down. Squeeze all your fingers together.
- Separate one finger at a time, starting with the little finger, then the ring finger, until you’ve separated all your fingers. Squeeze your fingers together, and repeat.
To Increase the Challenge: Hold your arms straight out in front of you. Instead of just separating your fingers, try to make a V and W with them.
To make a V: Spread your little finger and ring finger away from your index finger and middle finger.
To make a W: Put your ring finger and middle finger together and separate the little finger and index finger from the group.