We can stretch our imaginations, budgets, and patience, but when we stretch our bodies, our muscles get more flexible, strong, and healthy. According to Harvard Health, “We need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints. Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight. Then when you call on the muscles for activity, they may be weak and unable to fully extend.”
Experts say that regular reach-for-the-sky stretching and other moves can help people stay mobile as they age. Stretching also can improve posture, boost energy, relieve stress, and help prevent falls. It helps lengthen muscles and increase blood flow.
The National Institute on Aging (NIA) promotes stretching for increased flexibility. The NIA recommends doing stretching exercises frequently, but slowly and smoothly. “Stretch into the desired position, as far as possible without pain. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds. Relax, breathe, then repeat, trying to stretch farther.”
Common and effective sitting stretches include perching on the edge of a chair and leaning over, aiming to touch the back of your ankles with your hands. Gently twisting the top half of your body while seated helps stretch out the back.
The American Council on Exercise recommends the “downward dog,” which can be performed by standing upright in front of a chair or desk. Hinge at your hips and reach your hands to your desk or chair. Push your hips back, as you bring your chest parallel to the floor.
Done sitting or standing, neck tilts (moving your head side to side) and shoulder rolls are effective ways to keep blood flowing and muscles engaged. Stretch the upper body by facing a wall at arm’s length. Rest your hands on the wall at chest-level. Gradually lean in, keeping your back straight. Bend your elbows to slowly walk your hands up and down the wall.