Flexibility is what helps you perform daily tasks with ease. It’s also one of the greatest determinants of quality of life as you age, yet stretching is one of the most neglected components of fitness.
Regular stretching in combination with staying active can help you prevent deterioration of strength and mobility that comes with age.
What You Gain From Regular Stretching:
- Reduction in general muscle tension
- Decreased risk and severity of injuries due to greater range of motion
- Stress relief
- Improved posture, stability, coordination, and balance
- Increased circulation
- Decrease in chronic pain
- Improved performance in exercise as well as everyday activities
Want to stretch to stay younger? Fortunately, a good stretching routine does not need to take much time and does not require any special equipment or formal training. What’s more, you can stretch virtually anywhere! It’s a quick and easy way to continue feeling youthful and simply achieve overall well-being as you age.
You should be doing at least 30 minutes of stretching three times per week and flexibility exercises for each of the major muscle-tendon groups at least twice weekly, according to The American Council on Exercise (ACE) and American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) (2-3).
1. Don’t stretch cold.
Be sure to warm up your muscles before stretching. Muscles that are not warmed up have a higher risk of injury when stretching, so it is best to perform any static stretching following a workout or hot bath. If this is not possible, a few minutes of light activity or some dynamic stretching (using momentum) will warm up the body enough to perform a static stretching routine.
2. Hold your stretches and repeat.
Be sure to stretch every major muscle group and then hold each stretch for anywhere from 10-60 seconds. Next, relax the muscle for a few seconds and then repeat the stretch.
3. Never bounce while stretching.
Rather than bouncing or pulsing, hold each stretch still at a comfortable point for several seconds, and repeat. Pulsing back and forth or up and down can cause injury.
4. If it hurts, ease up.
While you should feel some tension, and maybe even a little discomfort, stretching should not cause pain. If a stretch does cause considerable pain, back off a bit and hold the stretch at a more comfortable point. Gaining flexibility takes time and consistency, so stretching your muscles to the point of pain will usually cause more harm than good.
Consider adding just five-10 minutes of stretching before going to bed every night or a few minutes after every workout. This small addition can add up quickly to help you achieve stretching recommendations. Like with all other physical activity, anything is better than nothing—even the smallest amount of stretching can provide benefits.
- Fabre JM, Wood RH, Cherry KE, Su LJ, Cress ME, King CM, deVeer MJ, Ellis R, Jazwinski SM; Louisiana Healthy Aging Study. Age-related deterioration in flexibility is associated with health-related quality of life in nonagenarians. J Geriatr Phys Ther. 2007;30(1):16-22.
- Garber CE, Blissmer B, Deschenes MR, et al. American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and neuromotor fitness in apparently healthy adults: guidance for prescribing exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011;43(7):1334-1359.
- American Council on Exercise. Flexibility benefits. Available at: http://www.acefitness.org/fitness-fact-article/2610/flexible-benefits/. Accessed April 12, 2016.