Jul 4, 2020

7 Essential Stretching Exercises For Seniors

In this post you’ll learn about the most effective stretching exercises for Seniors and exactly how to do them.

Unfortunately as we age our flexibility worsens - for some it gets so bad everyday tasks become so difficult some lose their independence.

Fear not, with a simple daily stretching routine you can reverse this trend - With the free live Fitaneers workouts, we’ve seen more than 1000 Seniors 💪 improve their flexibility with these exercises.

In this post I'll explain:

  • Part 1 - A better way to think about stretching for Seniors
  • Part 2 - Do you need equipment to stretch properly?
  • Part 3 - 7 stretching exercises Seniors should be doing every day 

A better way to think about stretching for Seniors

Like anything in life it’s important to start with the why? What’s the goal?

  • We want to be entertained so we watch television
  • We want to learn, so we read
  • We want to keep fit, so we walk or jog
  • We want to stay strong and reduce the risk of injuries, so we do strength training

What if the goal is to move better, easier, pain-free and not be as stiff? (aka make everyday movements easier)

Most people would say stretching - holding a static stretch for 20-30 seconds.

Unfortunately, the research tells us that this type of stretching doesn’t help as much as we’d like (You can see the research here, here & here).

So what should you do instead? (I’m glad you asked)

💡 Focus more on “mobility” exercises - I'll show you exactly how to do them in part 3.

Let’s use definitions to make it easier.

  • Traditional Stretching (static): Holding a stretch for 20-30 seconds
  • Mobility: A combination of increasing the active range of motion (replicating everyday movements) + stretching.

See the illustration to see the difference in effectiveness.

Am I saying traditional stretching is bad? No - I’m saying that if your goal is to make everyday movements easier and maintain your independence, then there is a more effective way to achieve your goal.

Don’t worry if you’re confused about stretching vs mobility, in part 3 I will show you the exercise routine to help (pictures included).

Do you need equipment to stretch properly?

As I mentioned above...

If the goal is to move better, easier, pain-free and not be as stiff we should focus on mobility exercises not traditional stretching.

The great thing about mobility exercises is that you can do an entire routine without equipment.

There is some cheap and handy equipment you can buy if you really want to, but just know it’s not 100% necessary.

Unfortunately, some Seniors fall into the trap that expensive equipment will solve their problems and get caught out by clever marketing (it’s happened to all of us).

Equipment like this will NOT help you achieve your goal. 

The one piece of equipment that may be helpful are Therabands - but again they are completely optional.

If you would like to save money and still improve your mobility, check out the exercise routine below.

7 stretching exercises Seniors should be doing every day.

In this section I will include the exercises plus...

  • Why it helps
  • A step by step guide to do it safely
  • A picture to guide you
  • The exact number of repetitions you should do to get the best results

1. Arm Swings

Goal 🎯 - Improve posture by loosening the chest muscles and strengthening the upper back muscles.

Start with your hands straight out in front of your body at chest level. With arms straight, take your arms backwards as far as you can - you will feel a stretch across your chest, shoulders and upper back (great for your posture!).

Pause for 1 second in the stretch, then reverse the movement and bring your hands back in front of your chest. Once your hands are together, squeeze together for 1 second before repeating the movement.

On the last rep hold your arms open for 10 seconds.

👉 Repetitions: x20

2. Floor to sky reaches

Goal 🎯 - Improve bending and reaching ability - Ability to get things out of high cupboards.

Stand with feet hip-width apart, with two hands reach down to your right knee then reach to the ceiling above your left shoulder (diagonal). Complete x10 reps then do the other side. Reach down to your left knee, then reach to the ceiling above your right shoulder.

Tip: As you get more flexible, reach down closer towards the ground

👉 Repetitions: x10 (each side)

3. Good Mornings

Goal 🎯 - Loosen your legs (hamstrings) and lower back - This makes picking things off the floor easier.

Stand with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Place your hands on your hips.

Hinge forward (move chest towards the floor) with a straight back. Go down to the point of stretch. - you will feel it in the back of your legs (hamstrings) and your lower back.

Pause for 2 seconds at the bottom, then reverse the movement until you are in a standing position. At the top squeeze your hamstrings, your bum (glutes) and your core muscles.

On the last rep hold the stretch for 10 seconds.

👉 Repetitions: x10 reps

4. Body Rotations

Goal 🎯 - Decrease stiffness in the spine, make all of your movement easier.

Stand with feet hip-width apart,  arms at chest height. Gently rotate to the left as if you were trying to look behind you (without turning your neck). During the movement allow the opposite heel to come off the ground to take the pressure off your knee.

When you can’t rotate any further pause for 2 seconds in that position, then reverse the movement, rotating to the right. When rotating in the other direction remember to allow to the opposite foot to come off the ground.

👉 Repetitions: x20 reps

5. Spinal Rolls

Goal 🎯 - Decrease stiffness in the spine, make all of your movement easier.

Stand with feet hip-width apart, roll your shoulder backwards and lightly tilt your head backwards.

In this movement you are turning into a human slinky.

Tuck your chin into your chest, roll the shoulders forward - with straight legs slowly reach towards the floor. You will feel a stretch in your legs and back. Go to the point of a stretch, pause for 2 seconds.

Before coming up, squeeze your glutes then reverse the movement.

👉 Repetitions: x5-10 reps

6. Calf opener

Goal 🎯 - Improve flexibility in your lower legs (calves & achilles tendon). It makes it easier to pick things off the ground.

This exercise will be done one leg at a time.

Start standing next to a wall with your foot about half a shoe length from the wall. While keeping your heel on the floor gently push your knee towards the wall. Pause in the stretch for 1 second before straightening the leg again.

You should feel a stretch in your calf (sometimes the achilles tendon as-well). If you don’t feel a stretch take your foot away from the wall slightly - feel free to play around with the distance to suit you.

👉 Repetitions: x20 (each side)

7. Cat / cow

Goal 🎯 - Decrease stiffness in the spine, make all of your movements easier

Start on the ground on all fours - Shoulders over hands, hips over knees.

Start the movement by arching your back towards the ceiling (it should look like a scared cat 🐈) at the same time tuck your chin into your chest. Reverse the movement by pushing your chest to the floor and tilting your head back. Cycle back and forth between these two movements.

👉 Repetitions: x10

Summary and conclusion

I hope you enjoyed this post and start implementing a daily stretching routine.

Now I’d like to hear what you have to say:

- What was your favourite exercise in this post?

- Or maybe you have a question about some of the content?

Either way - I’d like to hear from you, so please click here to email me

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