Stretching is good for your health, whatever your age, but it is especially important for senior citizens. Having a decent level of elasticity in the muscles will mitigate the risk of falls and improve balance and coordination, strength and stamina.
Elderly people have brittle bones, so when they fall, they break their bones more easily. Elderly people are also more susceptible to falls as they lose their balance from being inactive and inflexible.
“To stay healthy, improve health and prevent falls, older adults who are 65 years and above should work on improving flexibility. This will help to improve coordination, balance, strength and stamina. It is important to avoid prolonged periods of sitting or inactivity, as this alone is a risk factor for poor health,” says Sarah Hayward, a physiotherapist who has been practicing for 16 years.
Benefits of Stretching
- Stretching increases strength by improving circulation and blood flow to the muscles and brain, which helps with cognitive function too.
- A good stretch wakes you up and invigorates you, helping you to start the day well.
- Stretching increases range of motion. Being less stiff means better pain management as well.
- Stretching improves flexibility, which in turn contributes to better body coordination and balance.
- Stretching helps to keep blood sugar levels down.
Here are some stretching tips:
- Perform balanced stretching. This means you should always stretch muscles on both sides of your body evenly. Don’t stretch one side more than the other.
- Avoid over-stretching. Never stretch to the pain of pain or discomfort. You will feel slight tension or a pull on the muscle at the peak of stretch.
- Go slow! Always stretch slowly and evenly. Release slowly as well.
- Never bounce or jerk while stretching. This can cause injury as muscle is pushed beyond its ability. All stretches should be smooth and slow.
- Don’t forget to breathe. Flexibility exercises should be relaxing. Deep, easy, even breathing is the key to relaxation. Never hold your breath while you stretch.