Exercises for seniors
will aid in maintaining a good posture. Posture is especially important
in older people as muscles on the front of the chest and hips often
become tight and pull us forward. That is why some develop a rounded
back posture and tend to walk bent forward. It is
necessary in order to maintain a good posture and functioning range of
motion to find the balance that should exist between extensors and
flexors all over the body.
A we age connective tissues become less elastic, so while those under 35 can manage with stretching two or three times a week, those older would benefit more from stretching daily.
What are the Benefits to Seniors?
How Does Aging Affect How We Should Stretch?
How Does Aging Affect Fascia?
Flexibility for Function
Guidelines for Stretching for Seniors
Yoga for Seniors
Stretches for Seniors
Barriers to Exercising
Other Relevant Sites
for seniors should include the following:
Since this is a website to specifically cover stretching, that is what we will focus on here. I will provide links to other relevant sites at the bottom of this page.
The key to feeling better and living better is staying active.
Exercises for seniors can
Even if you've never undertaken an exercise program, it is not too late
to start reaping the benefits. By remaining active, exercises for
seniors will help you continue to do all the things you like to do and
remain independent as you get older.
Exercises for seniors don't have to be undertaken in a rigid class format. Activities you love such as gardening, going for a brisk walk, or raking leaves are all forms of exercise. The benefits you get from activity is cumulative, so just several brief bouts of exercises through the day can be as good as one long exercise session. Either way it's important to fit it into your lifestyle in an enjoyable way in order to stick with it.
There is plenty of research to compare different stretching techniques
to advise us what works and what doesn't. Stretching provides benefits
that include improved flexibility, improved athletic performance,
decreased energy expenditure with movement, and injury prevention.
It is also believed that stretching helps to promote healing
possibly reduce the delayed onset of muscle soreness. (1,2)
Research has been done into the effect of different forces used, different positions, variable frequency and duration, but in the majority of studies the subjects used are between the age of 18 and 40. The results of this research may therefore not be applicable to those that are older, particularly the elderly, due to age related changes that occur in muscle and connective tissue physiology. These age related physiologic changes that will impact stretching are as follows:
Musculoskeletal flexibility is in large part due to connective tissue compliance and elasticity. Muscles of older individuals are more susceptible to injury during eccentric contractions (the muscle is lengthened during its contraction) and are slower to recover from trauma. (3)The diminished capacity for healing and higher risk of injury is why it is best to use static stretching techniques as opposed to PNF or ballistic techniques in elderly people. A cyclic stretching technique is probably more beneficial for older individuals because of increasing muscle stiffness and collagen deposition that comes with age.
A study done in 2001 amongst 60 healthy people (mean age 84.7, SD=5.6) with tight hamstrings compared stretching of the hamstrings held for 15, 30 and 60 seconds over a 6 week period.(4)
The results of this study indicated that a sixty second stretch was more effective than a thirty second stretch within this group of elderly individuals. Previous studies with a younger population suggested that a sixty second stretch was just as effective as a thirty second stretch. In this study a sixty second stretch repeated four times, once a day, five times per week for 6 weeks improved hamstring flexibility in people over 70 better than those that stretched 15, or 30 seconds. In this group, however, improvements in range were also seen in those stretching 15 seconds and 30 seconds. In other words a short stretch is better than no stretch, but 60 seconds is optimal. This study also showed that stretching must be continued if the benefits of stretching are to be maintained over time.
Connective tissues like fascia change as we get older. Collagen content in the fascia increases as does cross bridging between the collagen molecules. Elastin content decreases and becomes fragmented. A tendency to become dehydrated also reduces elasticity in fascia. However, research shows that the more you stretch, the more your body produces the substances needed to maintain flexibility.
Reductions in joint mobility normally come with age and research has shown that with this loss of flexibility comes poorer scoring in measures of performance in activities of daily living. Likewise studies have shown that when groups of individuals improve their flexibility, their quality of life scores also improve. Research shows that there are declines in joint range of motion with age from 70 to 92 years of age, with increasing decline into the 90's. (5,6) Maintaining this mobility is important to maintaining function.
Stretching should not cause pain or serious fatigue. You may feel some
discomfort that goes away when tension is released, but there should be
no pain. Here are some basic guidelines for exercises for seniors:
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Amongst a group of 16 community dwelling female seniors, three 70
minute sessions of yoga over a course of four weeks resulted in the
A study published in the Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine in 2006 looked at the effects of yoga on 135 healthy individuals between the age of 65 and 85(8). Results showed significant improvement in quality of life measures and physical measures. Physical measures were forward bend flexibility, a timed single leg stand to assess balance, and a chair sit and reach test for flexibility.
Irion JM. The
effect of time on static stretch on the
flexibility of the hamstring muscles. Phys Ther. 1994;74:845– 850.
2. Brooks SV, Faulkner JA. Skeletal muscle weakness in old age:
underlying mechanisms. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1994;26:432– 439.
3. Buckwalter JA, Woo SL, Goldberg VM, et al. Soft tissue aging
4. Feland JB, Myrer JW, Schelthies SS, Fellingham GW, Measom GW. The effect of duration of stretching of the hamstring muscle group for increasing range of motion in people aged 65 years or older. Phys Ther 2001;81:1110-1117.
5. James B, Parker AW. Active and passive mobility of lower limb joints
in elderly men and women. Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 1989;68:162–167.
6. Spence AP. Biology of Human Aging. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-
7. Chen, Kuei-Min; Tseng, Wei-Shyuan Pilot-Testing the Effects of a Newly-Developed Silver Yoga Exercise Program for Female Seniors Journal of Nursing Research:
March 2008 - Volume 16 - Issue 1 - pp 37-46
8. BS Oken, MD, D Zajdel, S Kishiyama, MA, K Flegal, BS, C Dehen, M Haas, DC, MA, D F. Kraemer, PhD, J Lawrence, BS, and J Leyva, BS, MHA RANDOMIZED, CONTROLLED, SIX-MONTH TRIAL OF YOGA IN HEALTHY SENIORS: EFFECTS ON COGNITION AND QUALITY OF LIFE Altern Ther Health Med. 2006; 12(1): 40–47.
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The following exercises for seniors are such that those in the general population may benefit. If you have a particular condition, or muscle imbalance, contractures, or spasticity, you need to consult with your physical therapist for a program that is appropriate for your needs.
This stretch stretches the muscles on the front of your chest and
With prolonged sitting at computers we become accustomed to the forward
head posture. This posture leads to tightness in the short neck
extensors and can further narrow disc spaces in the neck leading to
aggravation of arthritis and pinched nerves. This stretch works to
stretch these tight extensors and open up the spaces where the nerves
come out of your neck.
You must be sure to keep your chin tucked in prior to pulling your head forward to minimized shearing forces on the vertebrae in your neck. Shearing forces can further aggravate arthritis and pinch nerves. If you have a neck condition, definitely consult your physical therapist prior to doing this exercise.
The hip flexors will quickly become tight if you spend a lot of time
sitting. Tight hip flexors can often be an indirect cause of back pain
when walking. In order to perform this stretch you may need to put a
cushion or two on the floor for your knee if you have knee stiffness.
Repeat this on the left side.
If you have arthritic knees, a knee replacement or a hip replacement, definitely consult your physical therapist prior to attempting this maneuver.
The easiest way of stretching the hamstrings without straining your
back is to perform the standing hamstring stretch.
Definitely don't bounce into this as bouncing can
cause muscle or back injury. You gain more by holding a sustained
Repeat this with the left leg.
You don't have to be over 65 to have a lack of motivation for exercising.
People may be reluctant to start an exercise program for any of the following reasons:
Start by getting clearance from your family doctor, get active
gradually, and seek the advice of a professional if you're not sure of
mechanics of an exercise, how you should progress, or which exercises
are best for you.
& Physical Activity for Older Adults
Institute on Aging)
Exercise & Physical Activity: Your Everyday Guide (National Institute on Aging)
Aging and Seniors - Public Health Agency of Canada (Government of Canada)
Physical Activity Guidelines for Older Adults (British Government NHS)