Stretching and flexibility – effective wellness techniques for older people

Stretching before exercise is one of the most important ways to to maintain physical dexterity, prevent risk of falls and enjoy a happier, healthier later life, writes Bob Calabritto.

Stretching and flexibility for older people

Stretching and flexibility make up the cornerstone of injury prevention, muscle recovery, and increased mobility for exercise enthusiasts and couch potatoes alike.

Unfortunately, busy schedules and lack of education concerning the importance of this key wellness component lead to an increased injury rate in active individuals and paralysing decreases in range of motion in the elderly and inactive. Many people do not understand the importance of properly executed flexibility/stretching programs, and many others do not know the correct and most effective way to perform these exercises.

Whether you’re an older adult looking to enjoy a more active later life, or you’re a weekend athlete looking to avoid injury or the “Monday-morning soreness blues.” stretching and flexibility exercises are something you should add to your daily wellness ritual.

What is flexibility?

Flexibility is the farthest range of movement you can attain in a joint, or a combination of joints, in a momentary effort.

There are many factors that affect your ability to reach your maximum flexibility potential. Primarily, there are the anatomical limitations such as type of joint, bone structure, elasticity of your skin and connective tissue, and the ability of your muscles to relax.

You may have noticed that you are able to turn your foot inward a lot farther then you can turn it outward. The reason for this is a bony limitation on the outside of your ankle that prevents it from turning farther. The tibia (shinbone) is longer on the
outside of your ankle than it is on the inside. This is precisely why 90 percent of all ankle sprains occur when the ankle is turned inward. The elongated bone of the tibia decreases outward range of motion and protects the ankle from twisting that way.

Excessive muscle mass or fatty tissue can also limit your flexibility. And, of course, injury can lead to a decreased range of motion or flexibility. If the tissue is torn or overstretched, it will be too painful for you to complete the normal motion of that body part.

There are external influences that affect your flexibility as well. Women are generally more flexible than men. Age is also a factor. Growing children have more elastic connective tissue that allows for greater flexibility. As we get older, our connective tissue becomes tighter, so maintaining flexibility as we age helps to battle the effects of the ageing process.

Time of day can also affect your flexibilty. People are generally more limber in the late afternoon than in the morning. This can most likely be attributed to their muscles being warmed up after the day’s use.

Stretching technique - stretching and flexibility
Stretching and flexibility – stretch regularly at least once per day.

The dos and don’ts of stretching

To gain flexibility, you must stretch. When it comes to achieving the desired results from stretching, using proper technique is essential. By applying proper technique, you are more likely to improve your flexibility and avoid injury that may occur while doing the actual stretches.

Don’t bounce!

You should use slow, static-stretching techniques in which the muscle is stretched to the end of its range of motion. The days of ballistic stretching (bouncing) are over. Rapidly bouncing up and down can cause trauma such as tearing and overstretching to the muscle fibres and tendons. You should stretch a muscle to the point of slight discomfort or burning and then hold this position for at least ten seconds. Never stretch forcefully. Be patient.

Overdoing it will only cause you harm. You’ll generally start to see improvements in your flexibility in two weeks if you stick to your daily routine.

Stretch regularly

You should aim to stretch all your major muscle groups at least once a day, even if you do not plan on participating in physical activity-especially if you do not plan on participating in any physical activity. By stretching, you will increase the blood flow to your muscles and lubricate your joints. This will ensure proper movement and decreased muscle and joint stiffness. Try to adapt a routine. Most people enjoy a good morning stretch to get the cobwebs out from their evening slumber.

Go slow

Ease into your stretch. Cold muscles are more prone to injury. Much like a rubber band, you will be able to stretch them farther when they are warmed. If you are planning on participating in physical activity, it is a good idea to warm up prior to your stretch by engaging in light aerobic activity.

For fitness enthusiasts, it is also a good idea to stretch after participating in physical activity. Stretching helps increase the oxygen content of your muscles’ cells by bringing in fresh blood supplies.

The increased blood supply helps flush out painful lactic acid that is partly responsible for muscle soreness. By decreasing the lactic acid and increasing the nutrient flow to the area, your muscles are more apt to relax. A relaxed and loose muscle is less prone to painful cramping or knotting.

Stretching and flexibility
Always stretch before exercise.

Final stretch remarks

Stretching is the one thing that everyone can do that is a sure-fire way to increase sports performance, prevent injury, and battle the ageing process.

Remember to ease into your stretches and control the motion by holding the stretch between 10 and 30 seconds. Typically, there is no such thing as stretching too much. Stretch two or more times a day for best results. But keep it slow and under control, avoiding bouncing or forceful motions. Adapt to a routine that best suits you and your environment or activity.

Increasing your flexibility through stretching is sure to give you a great sense of health and well-being that will last for many years to come.

If you found Stretching and flexibility – effective wellness techniques for older people helpful, you’ll find more exercise tips for older people on our Fitness channel.

Tags: , Last modified: May 11, 2022

Written by 2:26 pm Fitness

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