Bending, stretching and squatting exercises are beneficial for every age group. Maybe you are a 20, 30, 40 or 50 something weightlifter or fitness buff who wants to add more stretching to your workout routine. Or maybe you want to stretch more on your “rest day.” Perhaps you are a 50, 60, 70 something- who has heard about the benefits of exercise for years and now you want to join a gym or go on a daily walk. Keep reading because this post is for you.
If you are starting to exercise later in life, don’t be discouraged as flexibility decreases with age and physical inactivity. As we age, muscles become shorter and lose their elasticity. Regardless of your age, you can increase your flexibility by incorporating stretching into your daily routine. However, it is important to realize that aerobic fitness and strengthening are just as important if you are in your 20s or your 60s. Remember to always consult your doctor before starting a new exercise or stretching routine (for older adults).
What are the benefits of stretching? Daily stretching can improve physical performance. Increased flexibility makes it easier to perform daily tasks such as lifting, bending and turning. Stretching increases circulation and keeps tissues healthy by raising the temperature of your muscles. Lack of flexibility can lead to loss of balance, which can cause falls. A regular stretching routine can reduce injuries by helping to maintain a good range of motion.
The National Institute on Aging and the American College of Sports Medicine recommend stretching lightly before engaging in stretching and endurance activities and then stretch more thoroughly after your workout. If you are unable to perform strength or endurance exercises but are able to do stretching exercises, perform them at least three times per week for at least 20 minutes each session. Make sure to do each stretching exercise three to four times during each session. You should stretch slowly and as far as possible without pain. Hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds. Then relax and try to stretch further with each repetition. Warm up before you stretch- a bit of walking, stationary bike, jump rope should be sufficient.
I have a friend at the gym who stretches for approximately 45 minutes before he works out. People sometimes give him a hard time- joking that he is warming up for the next day’s class. Yet he knows how his body would react to a strenuous weightlifting workout if he has not stretched properly.
It is never too late to start to get fit. The National Institutes of Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other health professionals suggest that exercise is the key to overall health for seniors and older adults. Exercises and fitness routines that are highly recommended for every age group, especially older adults are ones that build, maintain or increase balance, strength, flexibility and overall endurance.
Try this squat exercise which can be done with a chair, anywhere. Okay, well, maybe not anywhere. Maybe not on line at the bank or at Starbucks, but you get the idea. This is a great exercise for strengthening hips, thighs and buttocks.
In front of a sturdy, armless chair, stand with feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart. Then extend your arms out in front of you so they are parallel to the ground and lean forward a little at the hips. Make sure that your knees NEVER come forward past your toes.
Lower yourself in a slow, controlled motion, to a count of four, until you reach a near-sitting position. Pause. Then to a count of two, slowly rise back up to a standing position. Keep your knees over your ankles and your back straight. Repeat ten times for one set. Rest for one to two minutes. Then complete a second set of ten repetitions. If you are unable to go all the way down, put a couple of pillows on the chair or only squat down four to six inches. Do whatever is comfortable for you. Also, placing more weight on your heels than on your toes can help you keep your knees from moving forward past your toes.
Everyday is a new beginning. Make your tomorrow a day to stretch, strengthen or get fit. “Believe you can and you’re halfway there.”- Theodore Roosevelt