You may think of stretching as something for athletes or runners, but it’s an important habit for everyone, especially senior adults. Stretching promotes flexibility, mobility, strength, and independent living! So if you encounter joint pain or muscle stiffness, stretching is a great way to find pain relief while promoting movement.
It can be hard to know where to start with any new exercise, so we’ve broken down some of the best simple stretches for you to try—and the best part is, you don’t have to leave the comfort of your own home!
Why You Should Stretch
When we stretch, we lengthen our muscles, ligaments, skin, and soft tissues. Neglecting to stretch regularly can actually cause our muscles to shorten and become stiff, tight, and strained during use. When muscle shortening turns into pain, our day-to-day activities can become more challenging.
Stretching helps keep our muscles long and relieves joint pain. To maximize this relief, try using a hemp relief salve or skin cream to provide fast, targeted relief. You can also try hemp gummies or a hemp tincture to soothe joints and muscles from the inside out!
Stretching preserves our health because when we stretch our muscles, we help their fibers elongate and gain strength. It also protects our muscles from injury during physical activity, as certain motions that are fine when our ligaments are long can hurt our ligaments when they’re short and tight.
Another benefit of stretching is that it promotes muscle flexibility and increases our range of motion! As our bodies age, our range of motion can decrease. The best way to increase range of motion, mobility, and flexibility is by stretching regularly.
So, let’s talk about some simple stretches you can do!
Upper Body Stretches
Upper Back Stretch
This upper back stretch lengthens the top of your spine, your neck, and your shoulders, and helps relieve tension and stress in these areas. To perform this stretch, sit up with your back straight and your feet planted firmly on the floor, shoulder-width apart.
With your hands together, bring both of your arms forward and reach them out as far and straight as you can. Your upper back and shoulders should look hunched because your arms are pulling it forward. Hold for 30 seconds.
To add another movement to this stretch, tuck your chin into your chest while you pull your arms forward. This deepens the stretch in your neck!
This stretch is a great way to increase your upper body’s range of motion, especially when it comes to sideways reach. It improves breathing and circulation, and it can help prevent rounded shoulders and heal forward head posture.
To do this stretch, sit straight up in a chair with your feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart. Put your arms out to the sides and bend your elbow at a 90-degree angle with your palms facing forward.
Now squeeze your shoulder blades together in your back. To do this, you can pretend to “pinch” your shoulder blades together and imagine you’re trying to get them to touch. Hold for 30 seconds, breathing throughout.
This side stretch is a great way to promote reaching, twisting, and bending movements in your torso. It also promotes easy breathing and efficient circulation.
To perform this stretch, sit up straight in a chair with your feet shoulder-width apart. Lift your right arm up above your head and gently lean to the left. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat for 30 seconds with your left arm leaning to the right.
You can place whichever hand you are not using during this stretch on your chair for support.
Lower Body Stretches
This stretch lengthens your quadricep muscle, which is located in the thigh. It improves the range of motion in your lower body and mobility when walking, going up stairs, and standing up from a seated position. It can also help your posture while you walk, relieve lower back pain, and promote balance and steadiness when moving.
To perform this stretch, stand behind a chair or sturdy surface (a counter or table works fine, too). Place one hand on the surface for support and balance, then bend your right knee so your right foot is near your glutes. Grab your right foot with your right hand, then hold it as close to your glutes as you can comfortably.
You should feel this stretch in the front part of your thigh. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat with the opposite leg.
Modification: Perform This Stretch from the Floor
For added stability and balance, you can perform this stretch from the floor. Be sure to use a yoga mat or another soft surface and lower yourself into a kneeling or lunge position. Thrust your hips forward slightly to feel this stretch deeper. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides!
This calf stretch supports mobility in the ankle and stability when walking, going up stairs, and moving across uneven surfaces such as gravel or grassy ground. This stretch also improves the ability to regain balance!
To perform this stretch, stand behind a chair or sturdy surface. Next, position your legs into a lunge formation. One leg should be forward and slightly bent while the other should be straight behind you. Think of your front heel pressing into the floor, and come onto the ball mound of your back foot.
You can bend your back leg slightly to square your hips towards the front of your space, lengthening your back leg as you become more comfortable in the stretch. Be sure your front knee is positioned over your second and third toes to avoid sickling it inward.
During this stretch, your weight should remain on the front leg as it’s sturdier in its bent position. You’ll feel this stretch on the back of your lower leg. Hold for 30 seconds and switch legs.
This hamstring stretch has an added bonus—it stretches your lower back, too! This stretch promotes overall lower body movement and reduces lower back pain and tension. To perform this stretch, sit on the edge of your chair with both feet planted firmly on the ground.
Next, take your right leg and extend it straight out in front of you. Lift your toes up toward the ceiling. Your other foot should remain flat on the floor. Reach your arms straight out in front of you and bend your lower back so you’re reaching toward your toes. Hold for 30 seconds and breathe.
To do this hip stretch, sit on the edge of a seat and cross your right foot over your left knee, flexing your lifted foot. Place both hands on your right thigh and gently push your leg down to the floor. You should feel the stretch in your inner leg and pelvic area or hips.
Hold for 30 seconds and repeat with the other leg, breathing throughout.
When should I stretch?
You can stretch when you wake up and right before bed to relax your body and set the stage for your day or night. It’s also important to stretch before and after exercise. This is to protect your muscles while you work out! Stretching lengthens your muscle fibers, which helps them grow stronger and protects them from being strained during exercise. Stretching after exercises helps your muscles recover.
How often should I stretch?
It’s best to stretch lightly every day. This allows your body to stay loose and relaxed, and it relieves stress and tension in your muscles. However, you don’t have to practice every stretch each day or do intense stretches each day. Pick two or three stretches to do every day and for a few minutes.
You can do a different set of stretches each day, which can help you explore a variety of movements and promote your overall wellness and flexibility.
How should I breathe while I stretch?
Breathing is essential while stretching and developing flexibility. To breathe properly, try to breathe from your stomach. Some people will try to expand their chest when they breathe, but this actually puts strain on the shoulders and back, and it doesn’t let you breathe fully. As your lungs fill up with air, your belly should look like it’s “filling up” too.
What if the stretches hurt?
If a stretch or movement causes discomfort or pain, remember not to push yourself. The goal of stretching is not to strain yourself past your limit. Stretching is meant to lengthen your muscles, so any amount of stretching is a success!
There is supposed to be a healthy amount of tension, so some resistance is good. Just note the difference between resistance and pain. If you do feel pain during a stretch, take a break and try a gentler approach. If you still experience pain, talk to a healthcare professional—and move on to a different stretch!
Stretching offers a multitude of benefits for health and flexibility. Taking advantage of these benefits promotes independent living, and it’s a great way to get moving and set the stage for a day full of activity and exercise.
Whether you’re a beginner or have been stretching for years, there’s never a better time to start than now. Grab your water bottle, and let’s go stretch!