Seniors can experience all of the benefits of stretching exercises for their overall health and well-being.
Stretching exercises are often referred to as flexibility exercises because that's primarily what they do for the body. They train your muscles and joints to bend and stretch more naturally so that you can enjoy greater mobility with lower risk of injury.
If you’re still not sure about incorporating stretching into your daily life, these 10 benefits of stretching exercises may convince you to give it a try.
1. Improved confidence in your body. Your belief that you are strong and flexible is just as important as your actual strength and flexibility. When you reach up to grab cereal from the cabinet or bend over to retrieve something that you dropped, you want to have confidence that your body can handle that natural stretch. Without that confidence, you will depend more on other people to complete the task for you. This reduces your independence and lowers your quality of life.
2. Reduced risk of injury from routine movements. The older you get, the more serious an injury can become. Many older adults are pushed to the sidelines of life because their bodies aren’t flexible enough to bend and twist with ease. By stretching on a routine basis, you will keep those muscles in shape so that you can move without pulling muscles or injuring your joints.
3. Improved circulation. You want to keep your blood flowing freely through your veins so that you’re at less risk of developing blood clots. You will also have less stiffness and swelling that interferes with your ability to move around comfortably. Exercise in general will help with circulation, but stretching is the gentlest and most rewarding option.
4. Learning to relax. Holding a stretch and taking deep breaths will naturally put your mind and body in a relaxed state. If you close your eyes and focus on your breathing, you can clear your mind and ease the impact of stress from daily life. If you do this right before the most stressful part of your day, you may find it easier to power through the most challenging tasks.
5. Natural pain relief. There’s a reason that many people suffering from chronic pain are encouraged to attend physical therapy sessions and work exercise into their daily lives. Stretching is an important part of most therapy sessions because it can help relieve the pain. Perhaps you will never substitute stretching for prescription pain medication, but it could reduce your dependence on medication when combined with other forms of exercise.
6. Increased energy levels. You don’t have to go out for a brisk walk or long run to boost your energy levels. Settling down for a session of stretching can do the trick as well, and you can do this in any weather from the comfort of your home.
7. Reinforce proper posture. Many stretches encourage your body to stand or sit up tall so that your spinal vertebrae are in proper alignment. One of the benefits of stretching exercises is that this will carry over into your daily life as you move your body with greater control and hold your head high. Not only will you look more confident, but this will also result in less strain on your neck, back, and abdominal muscles.
8. Your best performance in sports. Routine stretching can improve your performance when playing sports, lifting weights, or participating in cardiovascular exercise. You will have a general ability to move more freely, bending and twisting with less restriction. This can help you steal bases in a softball game or reach further when doing toe touches as a warm up.
9. Improved balance. One of the benefits of stretching exercises comes when you balance your body on a routine basis even when you don’t consciously recognize the action. Think of how you hold your body upright while carrying heavy grocery bags on your arms or how you pick up a young child while walking through the house. If your balance is off, you’re at greater risk of stumbling and suffering an injury, but flexibility training can help.
10. Greater enjoyment of life in general. A healthy body capable of functional movement is the foundation of a happy life. When you know that you can move with ease and that your muscles will support you when it comes to physical activity, you can pay attention to the things that really matter. You can also participate with your loved ones in more activities even if you are getting up there in age.
If you’re ready to start adding stretching into your life, keep safety in mind. You want to stretch far enough that you feel tension in the muscle, but you should never feel pain. Start by holding for just five or 10 seconds and work your way up to around 30 seconds.
While you may only want to do a couple repetitions of each stretch when starting out, you can work up to a longer flexibility workout that helps relieve stress. This is the most relaxing part of your workout routine, so enjoy every moment.