Now that you have heard about all the benefits of exercise as you age, you are ready to hit the gym or the dance floor…or at least go for a daily walk. There is only one problem: your joints or muscles do not want to cooperate. Is it too late to limber up?
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, flexibility (the range of motion of a joint) decreases with age and physical inactivity. Inactivity can cause your muscles, tendons, and ligaments to get shorter over time. However, regardless of your age, you can increase your flexibility and prepare your body for activity by incorporating stretching into your daily routine. Do not forget, though, that aerobic fitness and strengthening are also important as you age. Balance-improving exercise such as tai chi may also improve well-being and reduce the risk of falling.
A daily stretching routine may offer your these benefits:
The National Institute on Aging offers these tips:
These exercises, from the National Institute of Aging, can help increase your flexibility when performed on a regular basis:
To stretch the muscles in back of the thigh:
To stretch the lower leg muscles in 2 ways—with the knee straight and the knee bent:
To stretch the ankle muscles:
To stretch the muscles in the back of the upper arm:
To stretch your wrist muscles:
To stretch the muscles in front of the thighs:
To stretch the muscles of the pelvis and inner thigh:
Note: Don't do this exercise if you have had a hip replacement, unless your doctor has given you approval.
To stretch the shoulder muscles:
To stretch the neck muscles:
American College of Sports Medicine
National Institute on Aging
Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology
Fitness for anti-aging. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at: http://www.acsm.org/public-information/articles/2012/01/10/fitness-for-anti-aging. Updated January 10, 2012. Accessed February 10, 2016.
Physical activity guidelines: Older adults. Department of Health and Human Services website. Available at: http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/guidelines/default.aspx. Updated February 10, 2016. Accessed February 10, 2016.
Sample Exercises—flexibility. National Institute on Aging website. Available at http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/exercise-physical-activity-your-everyday-guide-national-institute-aging/sample-2. Updated January 21, 2016. Accessed February 10, 2016.
Last reviewed February 2016 by Michael Woods, MD Last Updated: 2/10/2016