Flexibility exercises
will make you a supple senior and improve your balance

Flexibility exercises have two primary purposes in a senior fitness program. The first is to increase or retain flexibility and range of motion. Just as inactive people steadily lose strength and endurance as they age, their bodies become less limber as well.

The second purpose is to relax your mind and body following a workout. Many trainees shortchange themselves by not taking time to stretch and relax after training. Think about how you have challenged your muscles and raised your heart rate during a vigorous workout. Does it make sense to abruptly stop and immediately go on to something else? Five or 10 minutes invested in calming your mind and body after a workout is always time well spent.

Here are my thoughts on stretching . . .

Always warm up before training by practicing dynamic movements resembling the workout exercises that are to follow. Mixtures of light calisthenics are usually good choices. Do them back-to-back for a few minutes. Get your heart rate up a bit. In most instances, the more focused stretching is reserved for post-workout. More on that later.

You do not need to be a contortionist to reap the benefits of stretching and flexibility exercises. Here is evidence of that. . .

Some people simply have an easier time getting to certain positions than others. Strive for flexibility within your own limitations. It should not be competitive. In fact, striving for “loose joints” may increase the chances of injury in some athletics. For post-workout stretching . . .

  • Practice dynamic or static stretching. To simplify those terms, dynamic stretching means there is more movement involved, such as in Tai Chi, Pilates, and some forms of yoga. Static stretching refers to the stretch-and-hold types, as in most yoga practices.
  • A third form, ballistic stretching, is characterized by rapid and sometimes jerky or bouncy movements. It is not appropriate for a cooling off period following a workout.
  • Do not force your stretching. Relax into a stretch. That means go only to the edge of discomfort. Then back off just a bit and hold that position for a moment, allowing your body to relax. Be soft. By not forcing yourself to go farther, your muscles will relax and then you will find that you can — softly — move farther into your stretch than you thought possible. Then hold 10 or 15 seconds.

There are many good ways of stretching. One excellent book on the subject is Stretching, by Bob Anderson, and published by Shelter Publications. It’s usually available in paperback for under $15.00.

The following links will provide more information on the formal flexibility exercises and movements of . . .

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