Stretching to Ease Pain

As the weekend warriors make a plan of attack for the next few days, whether it’s weeding and spreading mulch, getting the bike back on the trails or attempting to land a trophy trout, it’s also important to anticipate dealing with some aches and pains from overused muscles.  But with a few minutes of gentle stretching before and after activities, older adults can relieve pain and maintain flexibility allowing them to feel younger and have more energy.  

Taking time for a few minutes of stretching each day helps to loosen tight muscles, alleviate stress and tension and improve sleep.  While not everyone is keen on a full hour of yoga, gentle stretching every day can help seniors not only feel better, but may also reduce the risk for falls and injuries.  Stretching key areas like the hip flexors, which often become tight from too much sitting, can also help improve posture and a good walking or running gait.  

According to Aaptive magazine, shoulders are more easily injured with age because muscle in the chest and back may become weaker.  Stretching the shoulders can help reduce strain and tension and improve mobility, which may in turn help your golf or tennis swing. 

There are two basic types of stretches: static stretches in which a position is held for at least 15 to 20 seconds and dynamic stretching which uses gentle, controlled movements to increase range of motion through repetition.  In both cases, it’s important not to push past your edge to the point of pain which may cause injury.  The sweet spot is found in a stretch that is a challenge but in no way causes major discomfort – back off a bit if the stretch becomes too sensational. 

By stretching on a regular basis, range of motion will increase allowing more muscles to activate and improve overall performance.  By incorporating stretching into your exercise routine, not only are daily activities easier, but older adults may find they are able to gain strength.   When combined with deep breathing, stretching helps ease stress and enhance the mind-body connection.  

Stretching classes are becoming more popular at fitness facilities, helping the muscles recover after exercise.  But if you are still working out at home, there are also many online and app-based programs that can lead you through gentle and proper stretching techniques to avoid injury.  As always, talk with your doctor before starting any new exercise program and begin slowly.  Check out the National Institute on Aging’s YouTube channel for stretches geared to older adults here