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Health Benefits Of Stretching For The Elderly

Health Benefits Of Stretching For The Elderly

, by Joris Lans, 3 min reading time

For many older people, it can be difficult to stay mobile. Muscles and joints weaken and range of motion deteriorates as we age. Benefits of stretching include strength development and maintenance, improving flexibility, and increased circulation and blood flow, to provide a better quality of life and healthy aging.

1. Stretching reduces low back pain and arthritis


The causes of lower back pain in seniors are often a result of osteoarthritis and spinal stenosis.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and is caused by cartilage decay between the facet weights. Usually, the low back pain comes and goes, but over time, osteoarthritis can eventually cause sciatica. Along with low back osteoarthritis, arthritis usually develops in the hips, knees, neck, fingers, and toes. Osteoarthritis affects 17.2% of seniors aged 65 and older.



Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal. This narrowing can pinch the spine and nerve roots. The spine consists of 33 vertebrae. These interconnected vertebrae form a channel that protects the fragile spinal cord. The compressed nerves can cause symptoms of sciatica, tingling, weakness, numbness in the lower back, buttocks and legs.
While both osteoarthritis and spinal stenosis are a natural part of aging and cannot be directly avoided, the resulting pain can be managed through stretching exercises. Regular stretching benefits seniors by improving flexibility, range of motion and elasticity to relieve stiffness in the modified joints. It can be difficult and painful to stretch and move these joints, to reduce pain it is recommended to warm up stiff muscles before stretching them. You can warm the muscles by using a hot water bottle and vice versa by cooling the muscles with ice after exercise to minimize swelling in the joints. You may also consider being assisted in stretching, using stretch equipment or with the help of another person.

2. Stretching reduces the risk of falling


The risk of falling is a major concern for seniors. Every year, one in three seniors will fall. Research shows that regular stretching exercises are essential for balance and stability, preventing falls. Improving flexibility in the hamstrings, quadriceps and lower back, along with greater mobility in the hip joint, is important to prevent falls in older adults.

3. Stretching helps improve bad posture


As you age, our body's water content in the connective tissue decreases, resulting in reduced elasticity and flexibility. The tension on the ligaments and tendons in the chest and shoulders combined with sitting bent over at a desk for years will over time result in poor posture. Bad posture is determined by forward head position, rounded shoulders and upper back, and hips pushing forward. The natural S curvature in our spine compresses. This can cause pain in the lower back and between the shoulder blades. Improving flexibility is easy with a consistent stretch regime. This will help loosen up tight ligaments, tendons and muscles so you have more freedom of movement. Additionally, adding strength exercises for seniors along with a stretching routine will help balance weaker muscles and correct poor posture with the benefits of flexibility

4. Stretching increases blood flow and energy levels


Dynamic stretching is a form of low-intensity stretching that uses movement to stretch the muscles. Unlike static stretching, where you stretch while your body is not moving. In addition to lengthening the muscles, dynamic stretching will also improve circulation and the flow of nutrients through the body. Thus, the energy level of the body is increased. In older adults, more energy is important to stay independent, stay social, and age healthily.



Examples
 of dynamic stretching are:
  • Swing arm
  • Rotate the shoulder in circles
  • Lungens
  • Waving your leg
  • Half squats
Additional exercises for seniors
In addition to regular stretching, which is a great way to manage low back pain and arthritis, improve posture, reduce falls, and increase energy, there are additional exercises that help with healthier aging. Exercise such as:
  • Tai chi
  • Pilates
  • Water therapy
  • Yoga
  • Walk
A good aid with stretching is the LifeSpan Stretch Machine. Check the video for exercises you can do with it.

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