No matter what type of workout you plan on doing, stretching exercises for seniors are important to get the body ready for the exercise. Many people downplay it, but it is a major part of getting the most out of physical activity.
If you’ve been sedentary senior or not as active as you once were, the first time you try to play tag or run around the yard with your grandkids it will become quite apparent that your body is not as young as it once was. You also may notice that you need a heating pad for your back and a cold compress for your head when you go to bed.
Older adults are more prone to injury. Muscles become less flexible, joints are a bit stiffer and reflexes aren’t as sharp as they once were. The best way to keep from getting injured is to warm your body up as much as possible before you start your workout.
Fundamentals of Stretching Exercises for Seniors
Don’t stretch when your muscles are cold. This can lead to torn muscles and ligaments. Think of your muscles like a piece of salt water taffy. When it is warmed, it is able to be stretched and pulled in many different directions. When it is cold, it is more likely to crack when you try to twist or pull it.
The Warm Up
Perform a five or ten minute warm up exercise such as knee ups with arms raised. Your heart rate starts to rise and your entire body should feel warm. You don’t need to break a sweat during a warm-up but you should be glistening. Now, you are ready to stretch.
The Warmed Up Stretch
Stretch all muscle groups. Start with your smaller muscles like your arms, shoulders, neck, even your feet. Then, move on to larger muscles like your thighs, back, hamstrings and waist. Spend a good five or ten minutes stretching your muscles, touching your toes, bending slowly side to side, until you start to feel more limber. Once your muscles have been stretched nicely, you are ready to begin your exercise of choice.
The Cool Down
Wow, what a great workout! But, that’s not all. The cool down is just as important as the warm up. Think of your body and your heart as a moving car. It starts up slowly, but then gains speed the longer you exercise. If you stop when at full speed, it’s like pulling up the emergency brake. Abrupt stops are not good for your body.
Take five or ten minutes and perform easy exercises at a much slower rate. Breathe slowly. You will feel your heart rate start to slow.
The Cooled Down Stretch
Now, you’re ready for the stretch. Your muscles have worked hard and need to return to a relaxed state while you are still warm. If you have performed strength training exercises, stretching can help keep muscles from cramping later on.
This simple “warm up – stretch – exercise – cool down – stretch” routine helps your body return to a resting state afterwards. This will help keep your body in good working order throughout your exercise, and beyond!