Daily stretches for over 60s

woman doing a yoga stretch outside

It’s no secret that as we get older, we become more at risk of chronic pain, stiff joints and weakening of the muscles. But how can older people ensure they maintain their physical health and help avoid future ailments.

We spoke to a range of physical health professionals to understand why stretching is important for over 60s, as well as giving some examples of stretches that can be carried out at home.
 

Why are daily stretches important for over 60s?

“As we get older, the risk of osteoarthritis looms large for many of us - over 30% of over 65s, in fact,” says Personal Trainer, Russ Howe. “Stretching can help with managing the pain caused by arthritis as it will improve the mobility and range of motion of our major muscle groups.”

For many of us who work in offices, Russ says that stretching is important for correcting the damage from sitting at a desk all day long. “After working with lots of clients in the gym who have careers in office-based work, stretching is wonderful for correcting posture.

“If we spend years sitting at a desk, our body actually begins to take that shape permanently and we see our shoulders start to round, causing a hunched effect which we then carry around in our everyday life. But by stretching regularly we can alleviate this issue and bring ourselves back into line.”

Deborah Stone, co-founder of My Aging Parent also suggests trying other stretch and flexibility-based exercises to improve posture and realign joints:

“Pilates acts as a bridge between physical fitness and physical therapy and can be adapted, modified and customized to meet individual needs. It is much more about the physical condition than age.

“Tai Chi involves proper bending and stretching of the joints. It improves posture so that your internal organs don’t get squashed up into odd positions, and you also learn how to breathe properly. You learn how to move with an awareness of where your weight is so that your joints are properly aligned.”
 

How often should stretches be carried out?

In short, Deborah recommends stretching for 20-30 minutes every day.

If this is too frequent for you, Lynne Cantwell, Consultant Physiotherapist at Six Physio recommends stretching for 30-40 minutes 4 to 5 times per week.
 

What sort of results can you expect from stretching daily?

“Greater mobility, suppleness and less pain,” says Deborah. And if you’re participating in something a little more intense such as Pilates, Deborah says the results can be much greater and can lead to greater ankle and foot mobility which can result in fewer falls and reduce chronic pain.

Lynne says that stretching is a useful way to help maintain range of motion and flexibility in muscles. “Daily movements ensure continued fluidity in joints and muscles and avoid stiffness which increases the risk of injury and pain.”

Antony Lo, a physiotherapist at The Physio Detective, believes that you can cut risks even more if you incorporate exercise into your lifestyle. “Just by achieving 150 minutes of exercise per week (including two 10-minute sessions of full-body strengthening), you can expect a significant decrease in bowel cancer, breast cancer, stroke, heart problems and diabetes amongst many other conditions. Strengthening exercises have been shown to increase bone mineral density, strength and balance.”
 

Stretches to try at home

As a personal trainer, Russ works with a range of individuals of all ages, abilities and backgrounds. His website is also chock-full of great work out and fitness tips for anyone looking to improve their health and fitness.

When Russ isn’t holding a personal training session at his second home, Power House Gym in South Shields, he’s writing content for his website, creating bespoke workout programmes for online clients and trying to keep up with his three young boys.

With his wealth of expertise and knowledge in working with older people, we asked Russ about some of the most common stretches he recommends to over 60s, getting him to take us through the advantage of each stretch and how it can be carried out at home.

arms shoulder chest stretches

Chest stretch

Many of us have tight chest muscles due to spending too much time hunched over a desk, so this is a good move for gradually correcting the issue.

How to do it:

Place your hands behind your back and try to push your shoulders back, while sticking your chest out. If you don't have the mobility to do this, you can try placing one hand behind a door frame and leaning forward slightly, which will create the same effect.

Overhead triceps stretch

Every time you push something (or even just straighten your arm), you use your triceps. For instance, the next time you're pushing the shopping around the store, your triceps are hard at work. So, it's important to keep them flexible and ensure they have a full range of motion.

How to do it:

Reach one arm overhead with your palm facing forward, then lower it to the base of your neck. Use your spare hand to push the elbow back slightly, creating a stretch in your triceps.

Shoulder stretch

If there's one body part I've seen the most injuries with while working the floors of several gyms, it's shoulders. They do so much work on a daily basis, it is always a good idea to look after them. Having more flexible shoulders will help you when you reach for anything overhead or hold anything away from the body.

How to do it:

Take one arm across your body at shoulder level. Use your spare hand to hold the arm in position by pushing down either above or below (but not on) the elbow joint. Then work the other side.

neck back and hip stretches

Neck stretch

How many times have you woken up with a really tight neck after ‘sleeping funny’ and then spent the following day walking around like Robocop? Making sure you have full mobility in your neck just makes life easier.

How to do it:

Take your head through each of the following phases - look down, look left, look directly up, look right, tilt to the left, tilt to the right. It's as simple as that.

Lat stretch

This is another great move for anyone who has worked in an office job for years, as it'll pull your posture back into shape in no time. Plus, the vast majority of us develop back issues as we grow older, so there is no harm in protecting ourselves with daily stretching. You'll notice the difference the next time you're in the garden!

How to do it:

Place your hands out in front of you (or on the back of a chair if needed), drop your head and try to push your shoulders forward. You'll feel a stretch across your upper back. If you are able to get up and down comfortably, you can try a more advanced version of this stretch, which requires you to begin from a kneeling position. Reach forward until your hands are at 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock. Sit back into the stretch until you feel the muscles in your both sides of your back stretching.

Hip side stretch

If you're often out walking or jogging, chances are you have tight hip flexors. It's particularly common in women, too.

Here's a little test for you: If you lay on your back and the position which you find most comfortable is one which allows you to still push your hand under the small of your back (as opposed to your back being flat on the ground), then your hips are tilted forward, and are probably in good need of a stretch.

How to do it:

From a standing position, place one hand on your hip and then take your other hand overhead, leaning slightly towards the side that has your hand on your hip.

leg and ankle stretches

Quad pull

If you enjoy getting out on your bike this will be your new best friend, and it'll make climbing the stairs easier too!

How to do it:

Stand with both knees together and grab something nearby for support if needed. Use your free hand to pull your shoe to your bottom and hold the position until you feel a stretch run down the front of your thigh. Then switch legs. You can also perform this while laying on one side.

Calf stretches

Another one for the walkers. Our calves work all day to support us when we are on our feet, no matter whether we are decorating the house or hosting a family get-together. But it's a muscle most people neglect to stretch.

How to do it:

Stand with your hands against a wall and create a 45-degree angle with one foot remaining forward for balance. Drive your heel into the ground and you'll feel a great stretch in your calf muscle.

Ankle stretches

Over the years, I've taught countless men and women how to squat. And the one thing they never expected me to say is that how well you squat largely depends upon your ankle mobility. If you can improve ankle mobility, you will notice how much easier it is to bend down when you're in the garden or reaching for items from those awkward bottom cupboards in the kitchen.

How to do it:

“Sit down on a chair and lift your ankle a couple inches of the floor. Point your toes and gently rotate your ankle as if you were drawing big circles. Repeat with the other foot.

For an added ankle stretch, hold something for support, and then instead of getting up onto your tip-toes, stay on your heels and try to lift your toes off the ground. This can also be done by sitting on the ground with your legs out in front, placing a towel around your toes (if you can’t reach them), and pulling gently.

From correcting posture to improving day-to-day mobility, stretches can benefit a range of individuals no matter their age or ailments. For more information on daily stretches and exercises for older people, take a look at the NHS’s physical activity guidelines for older adults.

Whether you lead an active lifestyle or you need a stair lift and other mobility aids, stretches can benefit everyone, and they can always be adapted to fit your needs with the help of a certified personal trainer or physiotherapist.

 

If you’d like to download and print the above daily stretches, click here.