Are you wondering why flexibility is important for seniors? If you think that flexibility is about being able to wear brightly colored yoga outfits and smile while twisting yourself into a pretzel, it’s easy to understand why you might be skeptical. While that kind of flexibility plays well on social media and in exercise videos, being flexible is really about something much more basic.
Why Flexibility Is Important for Seniors
As Yogapedia explains, flexibility is about healthy movement. It’s about the ability of a joint to travel through its range of motion. It’s also a matter of how soft tissues like muscles and tendons lengthen and shorten to allow movement. There are significant benefits to staying flexible. And fortunately, there are a variety of simple stretches you can use to improve your flexibility.
The Advantages of Flexibility
Anyone asking why flexibility is important for seniors need only consider the many benefits that developing and maintaining your flexibility as you age offers. Unique Health and Fitness offers a handy overview:
- Function lift. Being flexible makes it easier to complete everyday activities.
- Injury protection. Better flexibility reduces the risk of injuries like muscle strains and fractures. For seniors, it may also lead to better balance and a decreased risk of falls.
- Pain reducer. Greater flexibility is associated with less chronic pain.
- Posture enhancer. Stretching can add flexibility and suppleness to the spine, neck, and shoulders. This decreases the risk of developing the dreaded hunch.
- Performance boost. More flexibility leads to better muscle performance, so workouts improve.
- Stress reducer. With less pain, greater freedom of movement, and an easier time doing what they want to do, people who are more flexible are often less stressed.
- Rejuvenating activity. People who are flexible move more smoothly and with greater confidence. This helps them present a more youthful appearance. Better posture may also lead to a more youthful look.
Stretches for Seniors
If you’d like to improve your flexibility, simple stretches are a great starting point. You can find instructions for how to do basic stretches online. Many provide modifications so that you can adjust the stretch to your fitness level. If you prefer, you could talk with a personal trainer at a gym.
Would you be more comfortable taking a fitness class that includes stretching? Yoga is an obvious choice for people who want to improve their flexibility, but it’s not the only one. Pilates is another great option. A low-impact form of body conditioning that was developed as a form of injury recovery, Pilates may be less intimidating for people who consider themselves inflexible. Tai chi is another possibility. This ancient Chinese exercise puts minimal stress on the joints as you move smoothly and slowly through a series of choreographed postures. It’s not fast, but it gets real results. Practitioners see better flexibility, balance, range of motion, reflexes, and leg strength. Fitness classes can be found online and in person, so there are lots of possibilities.
Tips for Stretching
Stretching to improve your flexibility is a fantastic habit to hone, but you’ll want to proceed with care to avoid injury. Use these tips to protect yourself:
- Always warm up before stretching. Walking in place for five or ten minutes is a good way to prepare your heart, muscles, and joints.
- Stretch until you feel tension. Do not push on until you feel pain. Doing so risks causing an injury, which may set you back and undo much of your work.
- Never bounce or jerk while stretching. This increases the risk of injury.
- Don’t lock your joints. Keep your joints soft and your movements steady.
- Hold each stretch for 30 seconds. This gives the involved muscles time to relax.
- Remember to breathe. Your breathing should be steady and unhurried.
- Plan for recovery time. Don’t push your muscles and joints too hard. Be sure to give them time off in between workouts to recover when needed.
A little flexibility can go a long way toward making your life healthier and more pleasant. Fortunately, achieving or maintaining a healthful level of flexibility isn’t difficult. Simply add a few stretching exercises into your daily routine.
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