Staying active as you age is critical for both your mental and physical health, but pounding the pavement and pumping iron aren’t the only ways you should be getting your sweat on. Stretching not only helps you better recover from physical exercise, it can also keep you mobile and pain-free as you age. A token hamstring stretch at the end of a walk or job isn’t going to cut it, though. You should be aiming for at least three to four 5 to 10-minute stretch sessions each week, but don’t overdo it. Only stretch once you’ve warmed up your muscles, and only stretch until you feel tension (not pain). Nail this, and you can expect to enjoy the following benefits.
1. It can protect your heart health
You might not associate stretching with cardiovascular health, but according to a recent study, stretching exercises can greatly reduce your risk of arterial stiffness
(something that can occur in middle to old age). In fact, another study from 2015 showed that stretching each major muscle group and increasing your flexibility can significantly reduce existing arterial stiffness – so it’s time to hit the mat!
2. It increases mobility and flexibility
Strength training and cardio fitness may help in building muscle and increasing your endurance, but regular stretch sessions allow you to maintain a full range of motion throughout your joints, which means you’re able to carry out your everyday activities with ease. Bending down, picking up kids, carrying luggage – all of this becomes easier when your muscles and joints are nimble and flexible. Stretching with a foam roller can also help to massage your connective tissues and provide a myofascial release, which in turn can improve your overall flexibility.
3. It decreases pain
Aches and pains from poor posture or age-related conditions such as osteoporosis can become a mental and physical burden if left untreated. Thankfully, regular
stretching has been shown to decrease discomfort caused by these conditions. In
fact, a study published in the Journal of Pain Research found that increased flexibility is related to a decrease in pain perception. Be sure to include both static and dynamic stretches into your routine for maximum benefits, but always consult your doctor before engaging in anything new.
4. It improves your balance and co-ordination
As you grow older, your risk of falls and injury increase, but research has found that the more flexible you are, the greater your balance and coordination. To reduce your risk of falls and improve your coordination, focus on stretching your hamstrings, quads, lower back and hip joints. Using a resistance band, like the Medifit Stretch Band, can help you get a deeper, more supported stretch.
5. It fixes poor posture
Slouching over your desk? Straining your hips as you stand? Stretching can help
with that. As we age, our ligaments and tendons can tighten, which can result in permanently poor posture. By stretching both your upper and lower body, you will loosen these connective tissues and correct postural imbalances. Goodbye hunchback!
By incorporating stretching into your overall health and fitness regime you can reap a range of health benefits to help you be at your best, no matter your age.