The Importance Of Stretching For Seniors [More Than Just Exercise]

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional

Stretching is important for seniors because it has such a direct impact on how their overall health by improving range of motion, circulation, posture, and also reducing the risk of injuries.

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The importance of stretching for seniors cannot be underestimated in any way. It’s an important part of the overall health and well-being of the elderly. Even the latest research shows the connection between flexibility training and functional ability in older adults.

As a person grows older, his/her joints become less flexible, and daily activities like getting out of bed and standing up from a chair become increasingly difficult. They may even find it difficult to raise their arms overhead. That is where stretching exercises come in handy.

Why Stretching is Important for Seniors and the Elderly

Older adults suffer from health conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and other conditions that affect their flexibility and muscle strength. Stretching is important to:

  • Improve the range of movements in the joints of elderly adults
  • Increase blood circulation
  • Improve the posture
  • Reduce the risk of injury by releasing soreness and muscle tension
  • Improve balance, coordination, and muscle control.

Aging adults will also experience a sense of calmness because regular stretching exercises help relieve stress over time. In fact, stretching exercises could be a part of a general exercise routine or target specific joint groups in your parent’s body when he/she is recovering from injury or surgery.

Types Of Stretching Exercises For Seniors: Static vs Dynamic

The most common types of stretching for seniors include static and dynamic. Static stretching involves holding the joints or muscles in a certain position for a period of time. These exercises help relieve muscle tension caused by an exercise routine. It helps improve the blood flow and recovery of older adults. Each stretch should last between 30 to 60 seconds for optimal results with static stretching. It helps to elongate and loosen the muscle group.

Dynamic stretching is active stretches or movements that are performed repeatedly within a short period of time. These stretches will let your muscles and joints loosen up gradually. In fact, dynamic stretches are a great way to warm up the joints and muscles before performing more challenging exercises. In a dynamic stretch, the exercise is performed for just a few seconds for each repetition.

The most important thing is to involve a physical therapist in devising the most effective stretching exercises for your senior depending on his/her medical history and physical condition.

The Best Stretching Exercises For Seniors

Seated stretching exercises are ideal for elderly adults with mobility issues. These exercises can be adapted for physical limitations to minimize the risk of injuries due to falls. The only equipment needed for these exercises is a sturdy and non-slip chair. Here are some of the best seated stretching exercises for your senior.

Overhead stretch – Stretch your arms toward the ceiling while taking a deep breath. Now exhale while bringing the arms down. Repeat the exercises for 30 seconds or as recommended by your physiotherapist.

Chest stretch – While placing the arms at your sides, focus on pulling your shoulder blades together and down towards the ground. Do it for one minute or as per the recommendation of your physiotherapist.

Upper back stretch – Drop your chin down towards the chest while making a circle with the arms. Now, push towards the opposite hand while focusing on spreading the shoulder blades apart.

Side stretch – Lean over to one side slowly without collapsing the upper torso and keeping the abdominal muscles engaged at the same time. Do the same for the other side, too.

Back of thigh stretch – Sit a bit closer to the edge of the chair and extend one leg straight out in front. The heel of the foot should be on the ground while the foot is flexed. Now, slowly bend forward at the hip while keeping the back straight. Repeat on the other side.

Spine twist – Cross your arms over the chest and twist the upper body to one side. Don’t move the rest of the body. Repeat the same for the other side of the body.

The importance of stretching for seniors cannot be underestimated. It helps improve mobility and the overall health and well-being of older adults. Care for your aging adult with therapist-recommended stretching exercises to improve his/her mobility and overall health and well-being.

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional

Scott Grant has spent more than 20 years serving seniors and the elderly in the home medical equipment industry. He has worked as a manufacturer's rep for the top medical equipment companies and a custom wheelchair specialist at a durable medical equipment (DME) provider in WV. He is father to 4 beautiful daughters and has three terrific grandkids. When not promoting better living for older adults, he enjoys outdoor activities including hiking and kayaking and early morning runs.

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