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How to Improve Flexibility

Exercise for Seniors

Stretching exercises give you more freedom of movement to do the things you need to do and the things you like to do. Stretching exercises alone can improve your flexibility, but they will not improve your endurance or strength.

How Much, How Often

Stretch after you do your regularly scheduled strength and endurance exercises.

If you can't do endurance or strength exercises for some reason, and stretching exercises are the only kind you are able to do, do them at least 3 times a week, for at least 20 minutes each session

Do each stretching exercise 3 to 5 times at each session.

Slowly stretch into the desired position, as far as possible without pain, and hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds. Relax, then repeat, trying to stretch farther.

Safety

Arm Stretch

  • If you have had a hip replacement, check with your surgeon before doing lower body exercises.
  • If you have had a hip replacement, don't cross your legs or bend your hips past a 90-degree angle.
  • Always warm up before stretching exercises (do them after endurance or strength exercises, for example; or, if you are doing only stretching exercises on a particular day, do a little bit of easy walking and arm pumping first). Stretching your muscles before they are warmed up may result in injury.
  • Stretching should never cause pain, especially joint pain. If it does, you are stretching too far and you need to reduce the stretch so that it doesn't hurt.
  • Mild discomfort or a mild pulling sensation is normal.
  • Never "bounce" into a stretch; make slow, steady movements instead. Jerking into position can cause muscles to tighten, possibly resulting in injury.
  • Avoid "locking" your joints into place when you straighten them during stretches. Your arms and legs should be straight when you stretch them, but don't lock them in a tightly straight position. You should always have a very small amount of bending in your joints while stretching.

Progressing

You can progress in your stretching exercises; the way to know how to limit yourself is that stretching should never hurt. It may feel slightly uncomfortable, but not painful. Push yourself to stretch farther, but not so far that it hurts.

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