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How stretchy are you? These easy standing stretches can help improve range of motion and mobility even if you have poor flexibility. Improve your stretchy-ness so you can reduce joint pain, and enjoy greater independence in your later years.
Do you wake up feeling supple and relaxed like a spry cat?
You are not alone if you choked on the question.
Most people feel like a mummified King Tut in the morning… not Felix the flexible kitty.
Sure. 30 minutes after waking your joints are all toasty and you are ready to embark on your day.
But decades of poor mobility turn like a slow-building Steven King horror novel. Soon, that stiff back reveals it’s scary clown face and drags you into the pain-filled sewers underneath Derry.
Let’s fix those tight muscles with some beginner flexibility stretches before your stiffness morphs into pain, loss of independence, and never-ending battles with an evil dark monster named IT.
Table of Contents
Why Should Seniors Stretch?
It feels good of course.
More than that. Here’s why the American Council on Exercise recommends stretching: “It helps improve posture, decrease back pain, enhance circulation, speed up recovery after workouts, improve the functionality of daily activities, increase range of motion, lower the risk of injury, relax your muscle and reduce stress levels.”
Wow! If that doesn’t razz your berries I don’t know what will.
Can I Gain Flexibility After 60?
“Everything’s downhill from here”.
“You lose flexibility as you age”.
“Muscle wastes over time.”
Here’s the real truth…
If you don’t use it, you lose it.
You’ve got to strengthen your muscles if you want to stay stronger in your later years.
You have to stretch your muscles if you want great range of motion when you are 70 and 80.
3 Quick Flexibility Tests for Seniors – How Stretchy Are You?
So how stretchy are you? Here are a few tests that won’t require you to contort into a pretzel or leave you pushing your medical alert button from the floor.
Sit and Reach
Sit in a chair. Scootch to the edge. Place your left leg in front of you with your toes pointed upward. Your leg will be straight.
While keeping your back straight (don’t round), hinge from the hips and try to touch your toes.
That’s ok if you can’t do it. Don’t force yourself to touch your toes. Go as far as you comfortably can.
Do your fingers need high-powered binoculars to even glimpse your little piggies? No worries. We’ll work on that.
Maybe your fingers embraced your toes like a high school couple parked at a drive-in. A+ for flexibility! Felix would be proud of you.
The sit and reach test measures the flexibility in your hamstrings and low back.
When one or both of your hammies are tight, it can pull your pelvis out of alignment and cause low back, hip or even knee pain.
Tie Your Shoelaces
There are 3 typical positions we use to tie our shoelaces.
- Leaning Forward – Seated
- Leg Up – Seated
If you have difficulty tying your shoes in any of the above postures, you have two options.
Trade-in your tennies for some comfy slippers. This may present problems on your next mushroom hunt in Manistee National Forest. Or…
Take a lesson from Doc’s flux capacitor and travel back to when your lumbar and hip mobility had more pep.
These standing up stretches will be your flux capacitor. Great Scott!
Scratch Your Back/Brush Your Hair
Here’s your third and final test.
Lift your right arm above your head. Bend your elbow so your right hand drops behind your head.
Now rotate your left shoulder and bend your left elbow up until your left hand is touching your right hand. Now do the hokey pokey and turn yourself around.
I guess I fibbed. The pretzel just made his appearance.
Can you interlace your fingers?
Don’t get down on yourself if you can’t. I failed this one too.
You get a shiny new trophy just for playing and hey, now you know what to work on!
Flexibility in your shoulders is important for daily activities like reaching for that large punch bowl on the top shelf or scratching that confounded itch you never seem to reach.
What Are Good Standing Stretches for Beginners?
The below standing stretching exercises for beginners amazing for opening up your chest, back, shoulders, and hips.
You can do them on your daily walk, first thing in the morning, or even before bed. Whenever it suits your fancy.
These easy standing stretches are gentle enough you can do them every day and feel so good you’ll want to do them often! They relieve joint stiffness and muscle tension.
Did I mention you can do all 4 stretches every day? Ok. I just don’t want to forget.
1. Standing Cat & Cow
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Arch your back and roll your shoulders toward your back.
- At the same time, extend your arms backward and twist your wrists so your palms are facing toward the ceiling (or gloomy sky like in the video above). This is the cat part of the movement.
- Hold for 3 seconds. I think I hear you purring already.
- Now slowly round your back like a cow sticking his head into a cud-filled promised land.
- At the same time, bring your arms toward your center line while rotating your palms the opposite direction.
- Continue the movement until your back is fully rounded and your thumbs are pointed toward the ground. Hold for 3 seconds.
- Repeat 5 times each.
You’ll mostly feel this exercise deep within your chest and upper back. Notice I said deep.
Some stretches for your upper back, for example, might be deep (stretching the spine).
Some stretches might be superficial (stretching the outer muscles). Both are good and important.
If you rotate your arms, your deep inner shoulder ligaments and tendons will also get a good stretch.
2. Low Back Opener
I’ll be the first to admit it. I do this exercise all the time. Sometimes I grab the back of the chair.
Sometimes a door frame. Sometimes, I even grip the head of one of my four kids before they scamper away.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart while facing the back of a chair.
- Place your hands on the backrest and hinge from your hips as you lower down. Ideally, you should lower to about 90 degrees but don’t go that far if you are especially tight. Bonus points if you are able to get your arms straight. If you can’t, that’s okay too.
- Hold for 20 seconds. Repeat 3 times.
You should feel this stretch in your lower and upper back.
It’s more of a superficial stretch for your upper back as it stretches that lat muscle which extends from your upper arm into your middle/low back.
But this stretch also dives deep and helps improve the mobility of your lower spinal muscles.
A few key points to think about when performing the Low Back Opener
- When you place your weight in the back of a chair, it can sometimes become unstable. Using a table or kitchen counter can be great alternatives with stronger support.
- Come up slowly so you don’t get dizzy.
- Step further from the back of the chair and extend your arms straighter, you’ll get a deeper stretch.
3. Hip Opener
- Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart. Your toes will point slightly outward.
- Keep your pelvis square in front of you throughout the stretch.
- Shift your weight over to the right side by bending the right knee.
- Shift your weight to about 70/30 (70 percent in your right leg – 30 percent in your left leg). Your left leg will be straight.
- Hold for 5 seconds then shift to the other side. Repeat 5 times total.
You’ll feel the stretch in your inner thigh of the leg that is straight. It opens the area where your thigh muscle (femur) connects to the hip socket.
Mistakes To Avoid When Doing The Hip Opener
- Your knees going too far. Don’t let your knees go over your toes.
- Your knees collapsing inward. When shifting your weight onto your bent leg, keep your knee in line with your second toe. This will keep it in perfect alignment.
- Pelvis twisting toward your bent leg. Keep your pelvis squared up in front and don’t allow it to twist.
- Bending at the waist. Some people like to lean a bit while they shift their weight. Don’t do this because it can create too much instability. Keep your torso upright.
- Toes pointed inward too much. For this stretch, your toes should be pointed outward. If your toes are pointed inward, it can put a strain on your knee when you shift your weight.
4. Side Opener
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart (seeing a pattern here with your feet? When your feet are shoulder-width it gives you good stability).
- Keep your weight evenly distributed throughout the standing stretch.
- Place your left hand on your waist for stability. Lift your right arm over your head.
- Slowly bend toward your left side. It’s important to keep your hand on your hip for good support.
- Bend until you feel a good stretch on the right side of your torso.
- Hold for 5 seconds then repeat. Switch sides after 3 sets.
You’ll feel the stretch in your right side if you are bending to the left. This is one of those rare standing stretches that target deep and superficial muscles at the same time.
You’ll be stretching the deep spinal ligaments on the side of the spine called the Intertransverse ligaments.
These ligaments aren’t stretched often so go especially slowly with this stretch. You’ll also be stretching ligaments between your rib cage and finally superficial muscles in your back.
Stretching Guidelines to Follow for Joint Health
- Go slowly. Don’t pull a Rodney and rush through your standing stretches.
- Keep your feet shoulder-width. I’ve mentioned this throughout the article but it’s important. Keep strong stability.
- Don’t go too far. It can be easy to “over do” a standing stretch because gravity is helping you perform it. Listen to your body. It’s better to ease your way into your standing stretch routine and allow your body to improve it’s flexibility over time. Rather than go too far and injure yourself.
- Take deep slow breaths as you stretch.
- Don’t bounce while you stretch. This increases your risk of injury.
- Only stretch until you feel tension in the muscle. Do not stretch to the point of pain.
- Always warm-up. Before stretching warm -up by moving around for 5 to 10 minutes, such as going for a walk.
Other Ways Seniors Can Improve Flexibility
Stretching is important. But flexibility and mobility are more than just having stretchy muscles.
Movement is key. Maybe you enjoy hiking in the morning like me. Or you prefer to pull out that Yoga mat for some deep breathing.
Or you prefer swimming exercises with your girlfriends and the local water hole.
It’s essential you stay active. Keep those joints moving, flexible, and strong and you’ll reduce joint pain and enjoy greater independence into your later years.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments! Do you plan to do these exercises? Have you tried them and found them helpful? I’d love to chat.
To your health!
Thank you so much for the encouragement to DO it. I have been sedentary for more than 5 years with the obvious drastic results. Because of you I finally found the courage to get off my butt. Your suggestions, plus physical therapy sessions are getting me back on track. I finally believe I will walk again without aid, in the future. Thank you. You may just have saved my life. I am 84.
Sonja, of course! Sometimes we need a little bit of encouragement to get the ball rolling. I am so glad to hear the exercises have helped get you back on track!
Hi Todd, First of all thank you so much for your wonderful stretches. I have enjoyed doing them with you. Your one of the Instructors I found online and I look forward to following you, Wow, you are awesome! I’m 65, in good shape, just starting to brake down, knees, spine. You are going to be so helpful, thank you again?
Eileen, you're welcome! I truly appreciate your feedback. I am happy that you're enjoying the stretches and are finding them beneficial!
I have been so pleased with the videos and exercises you yourself have posted as opposed to those of a third party, which I don't even bother with now. I am currently 69 years old and will turn 70 at the end of January. I have been active all of my life and up until this past summer have played golf 3 - 4 times a week during the summer, usually walking the course to which I belong. I reinjured my right knee in August of this year which is when I enrolled in the Feel Good Knees Program and started with the 6 week program for knee rejuvenation. Although I am still having issues with that knee, which has been an ongoing for at least 5 years, the program has enabled me to regain more normal use of my knee. The next program I decided to engage with was the exercises designed for those with arthritis to loosen up the joints. That has become my daily routine once I have finished with my shower, and again, I feel has benefitted me greatly. In fact it is the best way to begin my day! And now I can add these four stretches to my daily routine to help maintain my mobility which has been greatly impacted for the worse since my knee injury. The best thing about these routines is that they can be done in a relatively short time without having to get up and down off the floor, which is what keeps me motivated to keep doing them on a regular basis. Thank you so much for your guidance.
Thank you so much for sharing Marie! It makes me so happy to hear how my exercises have helped you and how you are able to gain back some freedom in your life. You are the definition of a Good Lifer!!
Dear Todd, I am still doing the exercises I got from you previously, and find them most helpful. These stretches are a wonderful addition and will help no end. I do a lot of stretches before I get up and before I sleep, find them great for relaxing, so I shall persevere with all your suggestions.
My Rheumatoid Arthritis causes me to have very ‘rubbish’ days , especially when it is cold and damp. Living in Scotland doesn’t help!! On those days, I’ve learned to rest, so that I can pick up the next day !! Well, after eighty years of RA I know the boundaries, but I would like to Thank You Very Much, your advice, tips, exercises are invaluable and I do what I can. ❤️?Cindy
Thank you for sharing Cindy! I am so happy to hear you are finding the stretches to be helpful. Sending my hellos over to you in Scotland! My family is currently RVing around America and right now we are staying outside of New Orleans.
Some years ago, gosh ,in the early sixties I lived in Great Yarmouth. I taught children with Special Educational Needs. My husband finished his career in the Merchant Navy to join an Oil Exploration Company , “Browne & Roote”, from New Orleans, based in Great Yarmouth, UK .
I made many friends from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Small World really ! Sadly, he died aged 31. just before we were preparing to move to the UK Headquarters of “Browne & Roote”. in Aberdeen after his promotion.
Love your Follow Along Ritual Videos. Would appreciate a Follow Along for the Senior Stretching Exercises.
I have already recommended your Feel Good Knees program and the exercises preparing for knee surgery.
I do not want knee surgery and am at week 6 on the Feel Good Knees program.
Hi Gary! Today or tomorrow I am actually announcing that our Feel Good Store is opening up and we will have a full-body follow along ritual! Keep your eye out this weekend and if you're on our email list (since you bought Feel Good Knees you should be), you will be getting a special discount.