We could bend over, touch somewhere close to our toes, play outside with the kids, and live with little or no pain. But, we were younger then! Today we’re seniors with stiff and stubborn muscles and joints. We can’t do without the best stretching exercises for seniors to stay active.
Sooner or later, most seniors find it hard to sleep – and then wake up stiff in the mornings. Even though I can’t guarantee a new lease on life with these simple stretches – You are going to love them. In fact, everyone I know who uses them gets better sleep, feels better, and gets around easier all day — with much less aches and pain.
6 Gentle Stretching Exercises for Seniors
It shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to do each of the exercises in the images below, and here’s a couple of things to remember:
- You’re not in training for the olympics here! Even though they are referred to as exercises, just use them to relax. They require very little effort, so DO NOT STRETCH FURTHER THAN IS COMFORTABLE!
- It’s important to note that you don’t need to warm up when doing stretches before bed. The goal is to wind you down and not perk you up.
- To get the best results, you do need to watch your breathing when doing the stretches mentioned below. Think about your breath as you are stretching and try to inhale and exhale deeply and in a rhythmic fashion.
1. Seated Chair Stretches
You can do this stretch while seated in a chair, or sitting on the floor.
In a chair sit up straight with your feet flat on the floor. Lift one arm above your head and very gently bend towards the other side. I like to do this 2-3 times and then alternate arms.
Sitting on the floor cross your legs (Just sit however you are comfortable) and raise your left arm above your head. Now lean sideways to the right so that the side of your torso gets a good stretch. Next, repeat on the other side with your right arm raised.
The cat camel stretch is one of my favorites for anytime during the day that I feel any back pain. It is a great and gentle stretch.
Get on all fours. Inhale slowly and drop your belly down and arch your back as you look upwards. Be especially careful with looking up at first, because it can leave you with a sore neck.
Next, exhale as you bring your hips up and round your back like a camel’s hump. Do this move a couple of times.
I’m not sure if this is a technical part of this exercise, but while you’re in the cat-camel position, gently stretch your butt first to one side and then to the other.
Wondering what you could do for exercise? Here’s 35 ways to get exercise and stay active.
3. Child’s pose
Sit on your heels with your back upright. Now slowly lean forward till your forehead touches the floor. Your arms should be relaxed and by your side. Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds. This should stretch your lower back.
So what if you find you can’t get your body to look just like the image? The most important thing is to do the best you can. You are going to find this so relaxing that you hate to get up.
4. Back stretch
This back stretch is just an extension of the child’s pose. Just bring your arms from your sides to stretch out in front of you.
Straighten both your arms out in front of you and reach as far as you can go. Hold the stretch for 30 to 60 seconds.
As I move my arms from my sides to an outreached position in front of my body, I exhale deeply and find this a very relaxing place.
5. Lying twist
Lie on your back with both your arms stretched out on the floor at shoulder level. Keep your feet close together.
Bring both knees upwards and towards your chest. Now lower both knees to the left side.
This should twist your trunk sideways. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds and repeat on the other side.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that all adults over 65 need a minimum of 2 1/2 hours of exercise every week.
6. Happy Baby
This stretch with a cute name is a pose that’s similar to what babies do.
Lie on your back, bring both your legs up with the soles facing the ceiling. Your knees should be bent and your feet low enough for your palms to grip your soles.
This is like baby playing with his feet and toes. The official Happy Baby pose is grabbing the big toe of each foot and bring your knees closer to your chest. However, don’t worry about that — just grab your feet anywhere you can.
If possible, you may wish to rock side to side to further massage your back. This stretch will relieve pressure on your hips and back. It’s a relaxing stretch that is ideal before bedtime.
How To Do Stretching Exercises
Not knowing how to do stretching exercises the right way can lead to soreness along with unwillingness to attempt healthy stretching again. However, stretching the right way will keep you flexible, feeling good, and energized. You can’t afford to miss it!
It may seem like stretching and flexibility is a straightforward thing… and to a large extent it is — when you’re young.
However, as seniors we need to realize not only the importance of stretching, but also that if you get overly ambitious you’re likely to be sore tomorrow.
I think you know already that your body parts don’t behave and display the willingness to take punishment like they did a few years ago?
But the thing is, not only is stretching a great form of exercise, it keeps your body and joints limber and flexible, along with helping you sleep better.
Knowing how to stretch and exercise without hurting yourself or causing undue stress and soreness of your muscles is the key to staying active as we age.
This is one of the best books for doing simple stretches that I’ve seen. I’ve owned it for several years. The title is misleading, because the poses aren’t so much yoga as they are great stretches.
But it is the best guide I know of for stretching.
It has two sections, beginner and more advanced. The more advanced stretches are just methods to get further into the “beginner stretches”. Just click on the book and choose the spiral bound book. It will last for years.
Abide by these 8 rules for stretching and exercise and you’ll have no problems.
8 Tips to Get the Most from Stretching Exercises
- Check with your doctor first
We can’t very well start without the obligatory don’t try this without checking with your doctor, so there you go.
- Always warm up first
Warming up first basically means that if you go straight from bed to doing stretches, you’re probably going to hurt yourself — senior citizen or not.
Even though athletes use stretching as a method to warm muscles before doing things like playing sports, running or walking at the park, you’ll still need to be up and around before you start.
When I’ve been sitting here at my computer for a couple of hours and decide to do my stretching exercises: I usually take the time to walk outside to get the blood circulation going before I begin. That gets my muscles and joints going prior to stressing them.
You want to take slow and steady breaths when you are stretching, and sometimes I need to remind myself to breathe during a stretch.
The steady and focused intake of oxygen helps calm your body and mind, making muscles more pliable and willing to stretch.
- Take it slow
Do not be surprised to learn how limited your range of motion has become when you start your flexibility training program. And be careful not to overdo the process to speed things up.
Stretching exercises are vital to staying healthy after retirement, so don’t hurt yourself and stop before you see the amazing results.
Just do your exercises and stretch out very gently to the point of feeling some tension in your muscles without pain. If you haven’t been stretching using an every other day routine that takes 20-45 minutes will allow you to begin to see remarkable results in 2 or 3 weeks.
- Hold the stretch
When you think about your own stretching routine, think about actually elongating your muscles and tendons. It’s not going to happen overnight, but that’s what you’re trying to accomplish with these exercises.
When you stretch, holding the position for 20 seconds or more gently aides your muscles to relax, warm, and stretch. I find that working up to 10 full breaths in the stretch is just about right.
- Don’t push past pain
This is simple. Don’t do it if it Hurts! As senior citizens we will do well to remember that thinking pain is gain is WRONG.
Here’s how stretching works for me: I start into the stretching pose and my body says “that’s as far as we’re going”. I honor that and do not continue pushing.
However, as I continue holding that position and breathing I will feel my muscles relax and each breath takes me minutely further into the stretch. That’s the key!
- Easy in, easy out
Form is everything when it comes to stretching for exercise. You’ll want to slip into the pose gently, and out the same way. Seniors especially, will risk pain and tearing something in sudden movements.
- Consistency is key
If you’re stretching with gentleness and honoring your body, it’s not strenuous, so try to set a routine of every other day. Most seniors have no problem with a 20 minute workout, but just find your own pace, and go for it.
To tell you the truth about my own stretching and exercising routines, I am regular as clockwork for weeks or months. Then I slowly get out of the regularity until I’ve stopped altogether.
It usually takes me a couple of weeks to notice that I’m less energetic, sluggish, have more body aches and pains than when I was doing my stretches and exercise.
So after a few weeks of AWOL — I go back to work. The first few sessions make it painfully obvious that muscles and tendons were shrinking and shortening. But it doesn’t take long to see the difference the stretching exercises were making and how bad I was doing without them.
These simple stretching exercises will increase your range of motion and overall strength more than you can imagine. That alone will make you feel good, but there’s a lot more benefits. Seniors in particular find this additional strength and ease of movement great for help with balance issues which makes them less prone to injury.
Simple Stretching Exercises Will:
- Help with stiffness
- Increase flexibility
- Greatly increase your confidence for activities such as walking, shopping, bending over, etc.
- Improve your posture which is always good for improving back pain
When to Stretch
Of course, you can do any of these stretches anytime you like. You don’t even have to do them all at once. Even though I try to go through the entire routine each night for a much better sleep, I also have my favorites that I will do during the day.
Here’s more great stretching exercises with images that are easy to do, and increase flexibility.
Here’s why I like to use this routine before I go to bed:
- Easy to do
- Takes only a few minutes
- Will help you sleep like a baby when done at night
- Helps relieve muscle and joint pain
- Once you get on the floor, you can do the last 5 of the 6 before getting up again
One of the best ways to calm your body down and get it in a relaxed state that’s conducive for a good night’s sleep, is to engage in a few pre-bedtime stretches. Not only will these stretches relax you, but you’ll also wake up refreshed and less stiff. However, once you’ve discovered the benefits of these exercises, you’ll likely be doing them during the day too.
I know a lot of seniors have trouble sleeping, and these exercises are like a magic sleeping pills with plenty of benefits. Even though you can do them anytime you choose, spending 20-30 minutes limbering up and working out the kinks is sure to help your sleep.
Not only will you wake up refreshed, after a week or two you will start to see unmistakable differences in your body and moods.
I find these stretching exercises for seniors are the best because they are simple, and really work. Give them a try and find out for yourself.