Imagine a machine that was so smart it could adapt and change with every bit of input we provide to it. Every time we challenged it, it would become more intelligent from that experience. It would become more resilient and better prepared for its environment and required tasks. Now, look in the mirror… we are that machine!
The human body is constantly changing and adapting to the input we provide it. When we challenge it, we become stronger. And when we neglect it, it can become less prepared for the demands of everyday life. This is exactly why it’s important to include physical activity in our weekly routine. There are a few different types of physical activity that are considered priorities according to the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines. One of those priorities is stretching.
Stretching can help keep the body limber, reduce the risk of injury, and improve overall quality of life. Continue reading to explore the main reasons why stretching is beneficial for everyone, especially seniors:
One of the main benefits of stretching for seniors is improved flexibility. As we age, our muscles naturally lose elasticity, which can make everyday movements more difficult. Stretching can help to maintain or even increase flexibility, allowing seniors to move more freely and with greater ease. This can be especially important for those who suffer from arthritis or other joint problems.
REDUCE BODY STIFFNESS
When we stretch, we remind our muscles and joints of their full capacity and capability to move through space. It’s important to stretch and move our muscles and joints through their full ranges of motion regularly in order to maintain those ranges. As mentioned, the body is very adaptive and diverts energy and resources based on how we operate it. This explains why, as we age, we become stiffer and begin to lose the ends of our ranges of motion of particular joints and body parts.
MAINTAIN JOINT HEALTH
Another reason to keep stretching regularly as a senior or older adult is maintaining joint health. In periods of stretching muscles, we are also moving and challenging the joints that these muscles cross. For example, if you are stretching your hamstrings (the muscles on the backs of your thigh), you are also moving the hip joint into an end range of motion. We know that joints love motion, in fact, that is exactly what they were designed to do. Research tells us that conditions like osteoarthritis are more likely to be products of under-use compared with the old sentiment of being a wear-and-tear disease.
Another benefit of stretching for seniors is improved circulation. As we age, our blood vessels become less efficient, which can lead to poor circulation. Stretching can help to improve circulation by increasing blood flow to the muscles and other tissues. This can help to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and other circulatory problems.
IMPROVED QUALITY OF LIFE
Finally, stretching can help to improve the overall quality of life for seniors. By reducing pain, improving flexibility and circulation, and reducing the risk of injury, stretching can make everyday activities more enjoyable and less stressful. Seniors who stretch regularly may find that they have more energy, better sleep, and an improved sense of well-being.
Now, you may be wondering where to begin. When implementing a stretching routine into your daily life, try to find a realistic time of day that you will be able to keep consistent with. A stretching routine that addresses all regions of the body should take no longer than 10 minutes to complete, however it can take longer if you are willing to devote more time to it.
It is recommended to start light and progress stretching routines, as you feel more comfortable and confident with the routine. If stretching is a new activity for you and you are looking for guidance, check in with your local community centre for group stretching or yoga classes for seniors.