13 Best Stretches for Seniors That Can Be Done Standing or Seated

13 Best Stretches for Seniors That Can Be Done Standing or Seated

May 15, 2021

Sometimes we need to face the undeniable truths of life, one of those being that aging sucks! Not so easy getting out of the bed in the morning? More difficult to bend down to tie your shoes? Not able to hit the green or participate at the local mixer anymore? These are real issues that seniors face everyday due to declining flexibility and mobility. As we age our body’s flexibility naturally declines therefore stretching for seniors is a necessity in order to reclaim your life. I know, I know for those of you not quite over the hill just yet you might be thinking why would I read this article. To put it simply, it’s never too early to start incorporating stretching into your daily routine. We will mostly be covering gentle stretches for seniors in this article but stretching in general is good for all.

Is Stretching Good for Seniors?

If you think of your body as a machine then you should think of stretching as the oil you need to keep all the parts well lubricated so it continues to function well over time. Proper exercise and stretching is essential to strengthen muscles while also keeping joints flexible and mobile. Daily stretching and exercise for seniors is particularly important as this can help with fall prevention, build strength and improve balance. We will cover stretches for seniors that can be performed every morning to enhance daily life. Move it or lose it!

Are there specific stretches or exercises for seniors?

Although stretching and exercising are good for EVERYONE to do, there are some specific stretches and exercises that are geared for seniors so that they're feasible to complete. As your mobility, balance, strength and flexibility declines over time so will your ability to perform different exercises. Obviously, people have different fitness levels and mobility levels so the first step before getting into a stretching routine is to gauge your mobility. For the young whippersnappers still reading or those who are still very active, you can try our mobility test. However, for seniors that have a little more trouble moving around there is a different standard used to measure mobility called the Elderly Mobility Scale (EMS), here is the EMS calculator.

Can you increase flexibility after 60 years old?

YES! Although joint mobility will deteriorate over time, adults still have the capability to regain some flexibility. This study showed static stretching can have awesome results for seniors. Active older adults (aged 67-80) performed static stretches five times a week over the course of one year. This resulted in a 31% increase in flexibility while muscle strength also increased from 10-17%. Now, who said you can’t teach old dogs new tricks?

Is Yoga Good for Seniors?

Exercise for seniors like yoga can be a great activity to participate in to restore lost flexibility and mobility. Yoga for seniors is a good option because it can be adapted to meet the individual needs of the practitioner.  Ranging from Ashtanga yoga to Iyengar yoga to Yin chair yoga there is a style for everyone.

Yin chair yoga involves practicing Yin yoga in a chair with the goal to increase flexibility of hips, hamstrings and to relieve back pain. Adding the chair into the session gives extra support to seniors with physical limitations so that they can enjoy the benefits of yoga without the need to get onto the floor. Yoga stretches for seniors can be low impact with high reward. You can find many follow along videos on Youtube for yoga stretches and exercises for seniors.

Benefits of Stretching Exercises for Seniors

Exercise and stretching for the elderly have tremendous benefits in reducing the chances of a late in life injury that is more difficult to recover from. Here are just a few benefits of stretching for the elderly.

  • Better Posture: Stretching your neck, shoulders, back and chest will lead to improved alignment of your spine resulting in better posture.
  • Reduces Lower Back and Sciatic Pain: Frequent stretching can help to alleviate pain especially lower back pain and sciatic pain due to improved flexibility in the hip flexors, hamstrings, glutes and muscles in the pelvic region.
  • Increases Range of Motion: More flexible joints can move through a wider range of motion without consuming as much energy. Stretching may also slow down the process of normal joint degradation.
  • Minimizes Post Exercise Aches and Pain: After an intense workout stretching your muscles helps to keep them loose which will lower the chances of experiencing pain.
  • Relieves Stress Levels: When your muscles are stretched properly, they will hold less tension. Tight tensed muscles can make your body feel stressed constantly. During your stretching session you should breathe deeply so your body can release stress.
  • Improves Everyday Life: Daily tasks such as driving, bringing the groceries in the house or bending over to remove the laundry from the washing machine are easier if your body can move without impingement.
  • Promotes Blood Circulation: Stretching your muscles improves blood circulation, supplying your muscles and joints with all the nutrients they require.
  • Reduces Risk of Injury or Fall: Muscles that are well stretched won’t injure as easily when making sudden or abrupt movements.

More Stretching Resources:

Precautions 

As always you should consult your doctor before starting a new exercise regimen. In this case if you have a physical therapist, they might be able to recommend some specific stretches that can better treat muscle or joint pain you’re suffering from. As a general rule of thumb never stretch to the point where it is too painful and make sure to breathe while stretching.

13 Best Stretches for Seniors Standing or Seated

The stretches for seniors below have pictures for reference and can be performed standing up if you’re confident in your balancing capability. However, seated stretches for seniors can be a great choice for people who have some physical limitations or have problems staying balanced. Chair stretches for seniors can reduce the chances of a fall that could lead to injury. If performing the seated version of the stretches make sure that you have a sturdy chair that allows you to sit comfortably without sliding off.

To start, make sure you have good posture with your back straight. If standing stand with feet shoulder width apart. If seated, sit up straight with your feet on the ground shoulder width apart, upper legs parallel to the floor. Make sure to engage your core while completing these stretches.

Stretching Tips and Guidelines
  • Perform this stretching routine at least two days a week
  • Don’t bounce while stretching
  • Take slow deep breaths while stretching
  • Hold each stretch for 10-30 seconds
  • Don’t stretch to the point you experience pain, you should feel ample tension not deep pain
  • Warm up for 5-10 minutes before stretching (briefly walk in place or around your house)

Neck Stretch for Seniors

  • Stand/sit with your back straight
  • Tilt your head to the left bringing your left ear closer to your left shoulder as far as is comfortable
  • Reach over your head with your left hand and gently pull your head towards your left shoulder
  • Hold for up to 30 seconds then slowly release
  • Switch sides then repeat

 

neck streches for seniors

Good for: Improving neck mobility, will help you look in all directions while driving.

Shoulder Stretch for Seniors

  • Sit/stand with your back straight, chest up. Bring your right arm across your body just above your chest, hold it with your left arm close to your right elbow
  • Hold for up to 30 seconds then slowly release
  • Switch sides then repeat

shoulder stretches for seniors

Shoulder Rolls for Seniors

  • Stand/sit with your arms relaxed hanging next to your sides
  • Breathe in and lift your shoulders up toward the ceiling then move your shoulders back while squeezing your shoulder blades together
  • Roll shoulders back making small circles with your shoulders
  • Repeat for 10-20 reps then roll shoulders in the opposite direction for the same amount of reps

shoulder exercises for seniors

Good for: Reducing tension in shoulders and can help with neck pain while improving posture.

Triceps Stretch for Seniors

  • Stand/sit straight keeping your core engaged
  • Raise your left arm above your head fully extending it upwards
  • Bend your left arm down at the elbow while keeping your elbow pointed up
  • Use your right hand to gently pull your left elbow towards the right side of your body
  • Hold for up to 30 seconds then slowly release
  • Switch sides then repeat

morning stretches for seniors

Good for: Loosening the arm muscles while also opening up your shoulders.

Overhead Stretch for Seniors

  • Stand/sit up straight then interlace your fingers together with your palms facing down
  • Take a deep breath in as you reach up above your head and turn your palms so they’re facing the ceiling with your arms fully extended
  • Hold for up to 30 seconds
  • Exhale as you return to starting position

best stretches exercises for seniors

Good for: Opening and loosening up your core, back and shoulders.

Upper Back Stretch for Seniors

  • Stand/sit then make a circle with your arms in front of you while pressing palms together
  • Lower your chin to your chest
  • Push through the opposite hand while you concentrate on bringing your shoulder blades apart
  • Hold for up to 30 seconds
back stretches for seniors

Good for: Stretching smaller muscles to improve shoulder and spine health.

Chest Stretch for Seniors

  • Stand/sit up straight then bring your arms straight up in front of you thumbs pointing up
  • Keeping your arms straight move them out and back, keeping them parallel to the floor
  • Hold for up to 30 seconds then repeat
chest stretches for seniors

Good for: Opening up chest and shoulders which helps improve slouching posture.

Side Stretch for Seniors

  • Stand/sit up straight then bring your hands straight up above your head, clasping them together
  • Lean to the right side as far as you can while engaging your core muscles
  • Hold for up to 30 seconds
  • Switch sides then repeat

stretches for the elderly

Deep Side Stretch for Seniors

  • Stand/sit up straight then bring your right arm over your head (same movement as above but only reaching over with one arm)
  • Lean to as far as is comfortable to your left side
  • Hold for up to 30 seconds
  • Switch sides then repeat

Good for: Loosening up obliques, hips and shoulders helps you reach for objects in your daily life.

Trunk Stretch for Seniors

  • Stand/sit up straight then cross your arms over your chest
  • Twist towards your right as far as is comfortable, trying to only rotate at your trunk
  • Hold for up to 30 seconds
  • Switch sides then repeat

 stretches for senior golfers

Good for: Improving torso mobility for daily functional movements of bending or twisting while also improving blood flow to the lower back to strengthen and reduce back pain.

Hamstring Stretch for Seniors

Standing

  • Stand up straight with feet shoulder width apart
  • Extend your right foot out in front of you while bending your left leg
  • Slowly hinge at the hips and place hands on right upper thigh then slowly push down
  • Hold for up to 30 seconds
  • Switch sides then repeat

hamstring stretch for seniors

Seated

  • Sit toward the edge of your chair then extend your right leg out in front of you keeping your heel on the floor
  • Slowly reach forward, hinging at your hips while keeping your back straight
  • Hold for up to 30 seconds
  • Switch sides then repeat

hamstring stretches for seniors

Good for: Increasing flexibility and mobility in the hips. Helps with daily tasks such as bending over or walking up stairs.

Seated Piriformis Stretch for Seniors

  • Sit towards the edge of your chair then cross your left leg over your right leg
  • Keeping your back straight lean forward slightly as far as is comfortable
  • Hold for up to 30 seconds
  • Switch sides then repeat

stretches for seniors in a chair

Good for: Helps to ease knee and ankle pain. Also can help with sciatic pain.

Calf Stretch for Seniors

Standing

  • Stand facing the wall and stand back a few inches then place both palms on the wall in front of you with your arms fully extended
  • Lean forward into the wall and bend your left leg with your right leg extended behind you
  • Push your right heel down into the ground while bringing your hips forward
  • Hold for up to 30 seconds
  • Switch sides then repeat

leg stretches for seniors

Seated

  • Sit down then wrap a towel around the bottom of your left foot’s toes
  • Extend your left leg forward keeping your heel on the floor
  • Pull back on the towel and hold for up to 20 seconds
  • Switch sides then repeat

Ankle Circles for Seniors

  • Stand/sit lift one foot off the ground
  • Slowly make 10 circles in one direction then 10 circles in the other direction
  • Switch sides then repeat

 gentle stretches for seniors

Good for: Reducing stiffness in the ankle joint that can help to mitigate potential falls.

Conclusion

We’ve just provided a few of the best stretches and exercises that seniors with limited mobility should be able to perform. However, there are a myriad of stretches and exercises to try if you have the mobility to get down and up off the floor without issue. Remember that these stretches can be incorporated into a morning routine. Get a jump start on the day’s activities.

Keep moving and stretching and before you know it you’ll get that pep back in your step!

 More Stretching Resources:



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