Stretching Exercises for Elderly People Looking to Stay Fit

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Daily stretches can go a long way towards keeping you fit and healthy. If you cannot commit to a daily routine, stretching when feeling stiff can still help immensely. Stretching exercises for elderly are easy and hassle-free. Here we’re going to talk about various exercises suitable for older adults and seniors.

But before that, we need to discuss the importance of stretching exercises for elderly.

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Benefits of stretching exercises for elderly

There are several benefits to stretching exercises. In a nutshell, these exercises can help you stay fit and active.

  • A daily stretching routine will help improve your mood.
  • Stretching exercises reduce stress.
  • Injury prevention is a side-benefit of stretching as it helps increase the ease and range of motion.
  • Stretching increases blood flow, which has several health benefits.

There are more benefits depending on which exercises you opt for and how regularly you do them. Most of these exercises don’t affect health issues. However, you’re recommended to stop doing any exercise you’re feeling pain in.

We're going to talk about several different exercises in this piece. You're recommended to read through these in detail and even try them to find the perfect selection for you. In many cases, you might already know your pain points, like stiff knees, and in such a case, you'll quickly find out which stretching exercises are best fit for you, like the hip stretch which targets hips and knees.

We'll be talking about 5 standing stretching exercises, a lying down exercise, a kneeling one, and a sitting one as well.

 Let’s see which are the most ideal stretching exercises for elderly. We’ll start with the standing-up exercises.

Standing Exercise #1: Quad Pulls

Process:

  • Stand and bring your feet closer together.
  • Put both arms at the sides in a resting position.
  • Relax your body.
  • Put your right hand on a support (like a table or a wall).
  • Balance the right leg.
  • Bring up your left leg until the point when you can hold it with your left hand.
  • Maintain a straight line from the head to the feet.
  • Slowly go back to the original position and repeat several times.

Benefits:

The quad pull is great for stretching thighs. It helps improve mobility in your body while maintaining muscle elasticity.

Standing Exercise #2: Yo-Yo

Process:

  • Stand up with your feet apart.
  • Interlace the hands with your palms in a facing out position.
  • Bring your palms to the chest.
  • Twist side to side while holding this position.
  • Your lower body needs to be stationary.
  • Torso and the head should be lined up straight.
  • Repeat the twists multiple times.

Benefits:

The key benefit of this exercise is an improvement in posture. In general, this stretching exercise helps align your spine and improve its mobility.

Standing Exercise #3: Hula Hoops

Process:

  • Stand with the feet closer together.
  • Put your hands on your hips.
  • Circle your hips in a clockwise fashion at least five to six times, just as if you’re hula-hooping.
  • Go slow at first and avoid any instant motions.
  • One set comprises of several clockwise and then several counterclockwise circles.
  • Keep the stomach pulled in and the rest of your body as stationary as possible.

Benefits:

This is predominantly a hip exercise that can help you maintain hip elasticity and mobility. It improves your core strength if done regularly.

Standing Exercise #4: Chip Drops

Process:

  • Put your arms out.
  • Touch the palms together.
  • Touch the elbows together.
  • Make your palms face your body.
  • Put the palms on top of your head.
  • Drop your chin slowly and gently.
  • Adjust as per the comfort that your neck and shoulders allow for.

Benefits:

Chin drops are an evergreen stretching exercise that helps with neck pain of various types. This motion stretches your neck and shoulders, both very vital and sensitive body parts, so adjust your motion and speed as per your current fitness. With repetition, chin drops will become easier and help you gain motion flexibility.

Standing Exercise #5: The Arm Opener

Process:

  • Make a comfortable stance with your feet apart.
  • Interweave your hands behind your back.
  • Make your hands fall with the knuckles pointing downwards.
  • When your hands reach the end of your tailbone, lift them as far away from it as possible.
  • Be slow and gentle at first.
  • Maintain a straight posture by looking straight ahead.
  • Keep your arm muscles relaxed. Tensed muscles will not offer the same benefit.

Benefits:

Arm opener is a more wholesome stretching exercise. It helps improve flexibility, muscle elasticity, and mobility in areas such as the chest, shoulders, and arms. Do it frequently. Increase the number of sets with time.

Ideally, these five types of standing exercises will cover all pain points. Now, let’s move on to stretching exercises that you’ll do sitting or lying down.

Lying down exercise: Hamstring and Lower Back Stretches

Process:

  • Lie down in a face-up posture.
  • Completely relax your body.
  • Bend the right leg, moving it closer to your chest. Go as close as possible.
  • Grasp your right knee with both your hands. Keep your shoulders steady and perfectly lying down on the floor/bed.
  • Hold for around 30 seconds as you start feeling the stretch in your lower back, glutes, and hamstring.
  • Slowly unwind and return to the original position.
  • Do the same with the left leg, and repeat the process as many times as you’d like.

Benefits:

These stretches are ideal for people who have lower back or hamstring issues. Lower back, especially, becomes tight and even painful in case you sit for long hours during work or don’t maintain a good posture in general throughout the day.

Kneeling exercise: Cat-Cow Pose

Process:

  • Get on all fours.
  • Align your arms as a straight line from the shoulders and your knees as a straight line beneath your hips.
  • It’s fine to use some padding like a small pillow if your knees hurt in this position.
  • Once you’re in this posture, arch your spine while lifting your head.
  • Also, inhale and lift your chest. Hold the breath.
  • Exhale as you pull your stomach in, drop your head down, and then drop your neck down.
  • Doing this 10-15 times per day will have great health benefits.

Benefits:

It’s more of a yoga procedure than a basic stretching exercise. As such, it has numerous health benefits if you can do it right and consistently. The most important benefit of this exercise is improved spine flexibility. Spine flexibility, in turn, is one of the most important health qualities that determine how fit you are in old age.

Sitting exercise: Hip Stretch

  • Sit on a tall, sturdy chair.
  • Cross the right leg up on top of your left.
  • Make sure that the right ankle sits right on top of the left knee.
  • Slowly relax the right hip, letting it feel a stretch as it’s pulled downwards.
  • Now, gently press down on the right leg and knee so that the stretch is even deeper.
  • Hold in this stretched position for up to 30 seconds, and then do the same with the left leg.

Benefits:

One of the most common fitness issues with old age is the inability to perform the simplest of daily tasks. Hips and knees play an important role here. If they are not flexible, you’ll struggle to do a variety of otherwise simple tasks. Hip stretch is a great exercise for you in this case.

Differences between static stretching and dynamic stretching

It’s important to know the difference between static and dynamic stretches.

In simple terms, static stretches help improve your body’s flexibility while dynamic stretches help improve the range of motion your body can undertake.

Over time, dynamic stretches provide better health benefits if done regularly, regardless of the intensity or number of sets.

The best way to do stretching exercises for the elderly is to combine both. Taken together, both types of stretching will go on to improve your body’s fitness, make it freer, and fast.

Static stretching for elderly

Static stretching means holding a stretch for a while, usually 30-40 seconds. This type of stretching is aimed at strengthening muscle groups. Which body part is feeling the stretch determines which muscles will strengthen.

As a general rule of thumb, you have to be extremely relaxed and steady in static stretching exercises. Maintaining a straight and firm posture is also key.

Warming up before static stretching and doing a few relaxation motions afterward to unwind are highly recommended.

Dynamic stretching for elderly

Dynamic stretching comes with the benefits of static but in a more active way.

These are higher-intensity and might involve tiring exercises.

The bottom line with dynamic stretching is to reproduce real-world body movements as you stretch your muscles to get the blood flowing faster.

Undergoing repeated natural movements during dynamic stretching allows you to improve the range of motion.

How many reps should I be doing?

Reps or repetitions mostly apply to strength training. However, stretches also work based on reps. One rep means one exercise, start to finish.

Ideally, stretching exercises are easier than strength training, so the minimum number of reps you can attempt ranges anywhere from 10-20 if you’ve been out of touch. In some situations, the minimum recommendation can be 30-40, for example, if you’ve done other types of exercises recently, you do yoga regularly, or if you’re very fit and active so that 30-40 reps won’t hurt.

Everybody has their threshold of how many reps they’ll be able to do painlessly. You’re recommended to find out your threshold by doing these exercises as many times as possible.

Elderlies who have serious health issues and find themselves very inactive, as a result thereof, should attempt to do at least 10 reps when starting with most of the exercises we’ve listed above.

Some of the exercises above require more stamina in general, and in those cases, you can attempt a maximum of five reps (for example, hip stretches are very effective but can take a toll on you if you’re lacking in core body strength, in which case it’s best to start with five only).

Reps should increase every week. Within a couple of months, you’re likely to have doubled the number of reps. However, going beyond a particular comfort point isn’t recommended either. More often than not, 40 reps of a stretching exercise like the cat-cow pose will suffice, no matter how easily you do those reps.

Improve stretching with yoga straps

So, now you have the basics under your belt. But if for some reason you find it uncomfortable to exercise routinely, then you might need to have some extra help.

Everyone starts slow. Do a limited number of stretches early on and don’t prolong them. With repetition, your stretching exercises will become faster, better, and more efficient.

And most importantly, it might be a good idea to invest in a yoga strap. Yoga straps make stretching exercises easier, especially the ones that you have to perform lying down, sitting, or kneeling.

Yoga straps are essentially stretching bands that you put around parts of your body. They improve the body’s flexibility.

Stretching vs. other exercises

Stretching is a fairly simple type of exercise. Other types include heavier workouts, weight training, and cardio. Compared to them, how different is stretching? Can you depend solely on stretching?

With old age, we face a variety of challenges that aren’t limited to deteriorating health. Starting from bone weaknesses to various types of difficulties – the elderly need a better, safer, reliable, but effective method to stay fit and healthy.

In this case, stretching is indeed the best option. Other types of exercises can leave you out of breath in a short span of time, might make life even more complicated, or might enable new health issues or pains to pop up.

Stretching is, in comparison, way more reliable. At the same time, it’s universally acclaimed to be a convenient method of staying fit as you don’t have to follow strict diets, lift weights, do a lot of training to see results, and so on.

Stretching is easy and almost effortless once you get into the habit of doing it regularly.

Staying fit with stretching exercises: what’s the deal?

How can stretching exercises help you stay fit, active, and healthy? How does the mantra of fitness with regular stretching exercises work its magic?

Apart from the benefits one could name generally, as we did in the first section, there are deeper benefits to stretching exercises. Knowing these will help you appreciate stretching exercises even more and perhaps also fuel some motivation.

  • Stretching is a core concept of yoga. The idea behind stretching regularly is that it helps maintain body flexibility. As long as your body is flexible (especially the neck, core, spine, hips, and knees), you’ll stay fit and active.
  • Combining several stretching exercises in a daily routine will allow you to have a full-body flexibility course. Depending on which areas need focus, this regime will differ from person to person. A full body flexibility course has benefits similar to comprehensive yoga sessions.
  • Stretching exercises are easy on the body, making them the right fit for older adults or adults with health issues such as joint pains. These pains can in fact be relieved as a result of stretching exercises when done the right way and for the long term.

Bottom line is that stretching helps your body become and stay flexible, which in turn helps you stay fit, healthy, active, and happy. 

Wrapping up

There are plenty of stretching exercises for elderly people looking to stay fit. However, not all exercises are for everyone. Depending on your health issues and the track record with exercising, you might opt for certain types of exercises while completely ignoring some others.

For example, it’s common to ignore exercises that need you to kneel or lie down if you have certain health issues. Focus on standing exercises in that case.

You can mix and match to see which ones fit the bill. Make it a habit to do somewhere from 2 to 4 different exercises, all targeting different body parts, on a daily basis.

Daily exercise will help you even if it’s for a shorter duration or less intense in nature, as compared to high-intensity exercises that you do every once in a while.

Investing in yoga straps might be a good idea for you.

With a yoga strap, a daily stretching routine, and the patience to start slow (initially, as you increase the number of repetitions as well as the intensity with time) – you’ll achieve great health and overall fitness in a matter of months.

Happy stretching!

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