Stretching is important as it helps to release muscle tension and soreness. It may also help increase circulation, muscle control, and improve balance and coordination. This is important for the elderly to reduce the risk of falls or injury.
- Side Neck Stretch
This is one of the best morning stretching exercises for seniors, simply because it’s so simple.
This neck side stretch will loosen any tension in your neck and the tops of your shoulders from sleeping in the wrong position for too long, or perhaps from not having enough pillow cushion at night.
- Start by sitting tall in a chair. Gently lean your head to one side, then the next, to warm up your neck.
- Now lift your right arm up and over your head, resting your palm gently on the left side.
- Gently pull your head to the right (very gently – in fact just placing your hand there may be enough weight to cause you to feel the stretch).
- Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
2. Shoulder & Upper Back Stretch
Over time, it can become hard to stand up straight, since the muscles are so used to being in a hunched position. This shoulder stretch will help loosen these muscles and improve spinal flexibility, so you can stand straight again.
- Begin standing tall, arms by your sides. Now, reaching behind you with both hands, pull your shoulders back and clasp your fingers together.
- If you feel a stretch already, hold it here. If you can go further, push your clasped hands away from your lower back and gently arc backward.
- Return to standing tall, and repeat.
3. Tricep Stretch
This triceps stretch can be done either standing or sitting, and is great for improving flexibility and mobility in the arms and upper back.
- Sitting tall in a chair (or standing), lift your right arm up over head, bending at your elbow.
- Now, reach your opposite arm up to clasp your elbow, and pull gently in the opposite direction. You should feel a light stretch through the back of your arm.
- Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then switch arms.
4. Standing Quadriceps Stretch
This stretch is excellent for lengthening the quadriceps muscle that sits at the front of your thigh. This area can often become shortened and tight from sitting or hunching forward, which can lead to pain and a worsening of bad posture.
- Begin standing tall, holding onto the back of a chair or countertop with your free hand for balance.
- Slowly bend your right knee and grasp your foot. At this point, you might already feel a stretch through the front of your thigh.
- Hold this stretch for 30 seconds, then repeat on the other leg.
- If you’re having trouble reaching your foot with your hand, try using a yoga strap or band, as mentioned above.
5. Ankle Circles
Stiff and/or weak ankles spell bad news when it comes to maintaining your balance. By gaining greater flexibility here, you create a first line of defense against falls and stumbles.
- Get comfortable in a sturdy chair, sitting up tall or stand and support yourself on a wall
- Extend your right leg out in front of you, keeping the other on the floor.
- Begin to rotate your right ankle; 10 to 20 rotations clockwise and 10 to 20 counter-clockwise.
- Lower your leg and repeat on your opposite leg.
6. Seated Hip Stretch
Tight hips can often keep you from easily doing common activities, such as getting out of a car or bath tub. This hip stretch will help increase the flexibility in your hips, allowing you greater range of motion.
- Begin sitting tall in a sturdy chair.
- Cross your right leg over your left, letting the right ankle sit atop your left knee.
- Relax your right hip, letting gravity pull it toward the floor. You may already feel a stretch deep in your hip.
- To go further, gently press down on your right leg and the knee for a deeper stretch.
- Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then switch legs.
7. Cat-Cow Pose
The cat-cow pose is actually a dynamic yoga stretch, great for increasing mobility and flexibility in the spine.
- Begin on the floor on all fours. Make sure your hands are directly beneath your shoulders and your knees are directly beneath your hips. Use extra padding (small pillows, towels, etc.) for extra padding if your knees are sensitive).
- Once you’re in position, inhale, arching your spine and lifting your head and chest toward the ceiling. Hold for a breath.
- Now exhale while pulling in your stomach and dropping your head and neck down (think like a startled Halloween cat).
- Repeat this movement as many times as you like, but do a minimum of 10 to 15 repetitions.
8. Hamstring & Lower Back Stretch
This gentle stretch targets the lower back and hamstrings, which can become tight or painful due to prolonged sitting and/or poor posture.
- Come into this stretch by lying face-up on your bed or floor. Take your right leg and slowly move it toward your chest.
- Keep your shoulders flat on the floor as you reach your arms around your right thigh (if you can’t reach that far, try holding your pant leg) and pull it toward you.
- You should feel a slight stretch through your low back, glutes, and hamstring as you hold for 30 seconds.
- Repeat on you opposite leg.