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5 Best Exercises for Seniors: Stretching for Flexibility and Balance

We all know the feeling. We even share anecdotes with friends and laugh at ourselves.

Bend down to pick something up, your knees creak. Stand on your toes to reach a high shelf, your calf muscles tighten into a knot. Every time you get in and out of a car, your hips remind you that your flexibility has waned.

The good news is that it’s never too late to start doing stretching exercises to improve your flexibility and balance. Both of which become increasingly important in preventing falls and maintaining mobility as you get older. It all comes down to what champion tennis player Jimmy Connors once said: “Use it or lose it.”  

That’s why the team at Newton Presbyterian Manor collected these top stretching exercises for seniors: 

Sitting or Standing Exercises

#1:  Upper Body

This overhead stretch is ideal for when your upper body feels stiff and “crunched up.” Raise your arms over your head, either standing or seated. Stretch through your fingertips. Feel your arms lengthen. Now, stretch your upraised arms to the left, bending slightly at the waist. Hold for up 30 seconds. Next, stretch to the right and hold. 

#2:  Shoulders

Whether carrying shopping bags, holding the grandbaby, or typing and mousing, our shoulders carry a heavy load. This easy stretch can help relieve the tightness in your shoulders and upper back. Start by standing with your feet apart or sitting in a chair. Lift your right arm to shoulder height and bring it across your chest. Take your left hand and gently pull your right arm closer to your body. Hold for up to 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

Standing Exercise 

#3:  Calves 

Hold on to a counter or sturdy chair for extra support if needed while doing the calf stretch. Place your left leg in front, bending slightly at the knee. Put the heel of your right foot on the floor behind you to stretch your right calf. Hold the pose and repeat on the other side. Depending on how tight your leg muscles are, you may feel the stretch in your calf, behind your knee, and even up into your lower thigh. You can do a calf stretch anytime, almost anywhere. Try it the next time you are standing in line, talking on the phone, or waiting for your turn to tee off.

Floor Exercises

#4:  Hips & Knees

This stretch is for people who can safely get up and down off the floor. Lie on a carpeted surface (or exercise mat if you have one). Keep your legs straight if you can. If not, bend both knees with your feet on the floor or mat. Keep the top of your body flat on the floor as you lift one knee up toward your chest. Grab your thigh with both hands and slowly pull your leg closer. Hold, release, and repeat with the other leg. 

#5:  Back & Neck

A basic yoga pose called the “cat-cow” stretches the spine to improve flexibility, balance, and posture. Get on all fours and round your back toward the ceiling, like a cat that is crouching. Tuck your chin to your chest. Next, arch your back in the opposite direction and lift your head, like a cow mooing in the field. Alternate these moves for 30 seconds or more. 

A lot of us at Newton Presbyterian Manor like to do morning exercises to start the day. A regular stretching routine can help relieve the snap, crackle, and pop many of us feel when we first climb out of bed. These five stretching exercises for seniors are just some ways you can get the kinks out. 

Choose your routine based on your abilities and priorities – be it balance, flexibility, posture, pain relief, and/or stress reduction. As always, also be sure to consult with your healthcare provider if you have any questions about beginning a new activity.

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