As we age, maintaining mobility and performing basic movements becomes difficult because our muscles become shorter and may lose their elasticity. Some seniors suffer joint pain on a daily basis. Stretching exercises increase flexibility of the joints and help older adults remain active and independent. Stretching benefits include development and maintenance of strength, improved flexibility, and increased circulation and blood flow, all of which enhance quality of life and promote healthy aging. Let’s take a closer look at the key benefits of stretching for older adults.
- Reduces low back pain and arthritis: Osteoarthritis and spinal stenosis are two diseases commonly seen in older adults. These conditions are the main causes of low back pain. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and is caused by the gradual degeneration of cartilage between the facet joints whereas spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the bone channel occupied by the spinal nerves or cord. While both conditions are a natural part of aging and cannot directly be avoided, stretching exercises can help manage related pain. Regular stretching benefits older adults by improving flexibility, range of motion, and elasticity to relieve stiffness in the afflicted joints.
- Reduces risk of falling: According to an article in www.lifespanfitness, each year, one out of three older adults will fall, with 2.5 million individuals needing treatment in emergency facilities annually. The risk of falling is a major concern for older adults who are 65 and older. Studies show that regular bouts of stretching can reduce the risk of falling.
- Helps to improve poor posture: As we age, our posture too changes, with a forward head, rounded shoulders and upper back, and forward pressing hips. This is mainly because our body’s water content in connective tissue, such as ligaments and tendons, decreases, resulting in reduced elasticity and flexibility. Poor posture can create pain in the lower back and between the shoulder blades. Senior strength training exercises along with a stretching routine will help balance out weaker muscles, correct poor posture and improve flexibility.
- Increases blood flow and energy levels: In older adults, increased energy is important to maintain independence, staying socially active, and for overall healthy aging. The body’s energy level can be improved by doing low-intensity form of stretching that utilizes movement to stretch the muscles. Examples for low-intensity stretching exercises are arm swings, shoulder circles, lunges, leg swings, and half squats.
If you are a person who workouts regularly, try to incorporate some stretching exercises in your warm-up and cool down to ease any discomfort or pain that can occur later. It’s important to consult your doctor before you start any new exercise regimen.