So, is it a good idea for seniors to stretch or not? It can be a great idea if the stretching is done properly. There are many stories of people injuring themselves when taking part in Yoga classes. It’s not to say Yoga isn’t great, but if stretching isn’t done properly, it’s very easy for injury to occur. That’s why stretching exercises for seniors should be approached with caution.
Yoga has become very popular and although it works well for many people, it’s most definitely not for everyone. Many Yoga- related injuries have been treated by physiotherapists. What they see most is posture problems, and pain that will not go away and the root cause is often repetitive Yoga routines.
The Yoga movement over the past decades is a great thing and it’s always special to see people taking the time to look after their health by improving their fitness. However, there can be too much of a good thing.
Many people are not even sure what they hope to achieve when they start any type of exercise. For example, some will head blindly into Yoga with the hopes that it will be the answer to flexibility. For some, it certainly can be, but for others, it can be awkward and uncomfortable and is sometimes the path to injury,
Some people feel stiff all the time and have this misconception that it’s because they don’t stretch enough. In fact, they are stiff because they simply don’t move enough or don’t move very well.
Flexibility can be a matter of genetics, but for most people how flexible they often depend on what they do every day. Sitting, walking, standing, and even breathing all play a part in affecting flexibility.
Stretching more is not the answer. There are lots of hours wasted across North America by people who stretch in an attempt to get more flexible. Certainly, there are those who will benefit, for some it won’t change a thing and for others, they can actually end up tighter from trying to stretch.
HOW TO GET THE MOST FROM YOGA
The people who really benefit from Yoga are the ones who find it calming, relaxing, and a way to relieve stress. In a nutshell, these type of positive reactions goes to the very heart of Yoga. The people who really get it, have managed to find the mind-body connection.
It’s the people who take up Yoga because they see it as a great way to stretch and gain flexibility are the ones who are not seeing Yoga in the proper context. They simply go through the motions and try to force themselves into certain poses and end up in a tug-of-war with their bodies. It’s a tug-of-war they are likely to lose.
Just because a person feels a tightness does not mean they need to stretch in order to increase their flexibility. Everybody is different in that some people have different body structures. Basically, our body structure is a boney framework that is held together by muscles, tendons, ligaments and connective tissue known as fascia.
Where the difference comes in is that some people are held together more tightly by the connective tissues. Some people have the genetics that makes them loose-jointed and some are tightly packed together.
The people who are naturally more tight-jointed tend to have very poor flexibility and always feel a bit guilty if they don’t stretch. So it follows that the people who are naturally flexible will enjoy Yoga more and those who aren’t flexible will try Yoga and see little difference, or worse yet, will get injures from trying too hard.
Here is a video that features Easy Stretching Exercises for Seniors.
STRETCHING AND SPORTS
As a long-time endurance athlete with over 30 marathons, a couple of 50-mile races, countless 10k races and 11 Ironman Triathlons completed, I have seen many examples of people stretching when it makes little sense, and worse yet, does them little good.
Many times before a race I would see people trying to do all sorts of weird stretches. I could very easily tell the ones who were new to running and most likely had little knowledge about stretching in general.
If they did, they probably wouldn’t be doing all this stretching just before a race. The experienced runner would realize that the best way to warm up your muscles and stretch them out for the race ahead would be to run easily just before the race is set to begin.
Let me explain what I mean. When I first became a runner, I thought stretching was something I was supposed to do. Several times I was injured by stretching because I was simply doing it wrong and trying to win the tug-of-war with my body much as I mentioned above.
You never win these tug-of-war situations. What usually happens is that you get injured like I did. It seems that I was one of those people who was not genetically flexible.
After many years I discovered the best way for me to stretch was to do a gentle version of the workout or race I was preparing for. In other words, if I was going to go for a ten-mile training run I would start out by walking at a brisk pace for about five minutes.
I would follow that with running very easily for ten minutes. Then I would begin my training run with all the muscles, tendons, and ligaments I would be using in the faster-paced training run thoroughly warmed up.
I would do the same thing if I was doing a swim workout. Instead of stretching, I would swim at a very slow relaxed pace for ten minutes or so before beginning the actual swim workout.
When I was going to race a marathon, for instance, I would run easily for 15 or 20 minutes before the gun sounded to start the race.
In all these examples, instead of stretching, I worked the muscles I would be stressing in a training session or race by easing into whatever discipline I was going to do.
By running slow, or swimming slow I was actually stretching out the necessary muscles gently. For the rest of my career, I never went out of my way to stretch other than my usual, natural warm-up.
WHAT WORKS BEST FOR SENIORS?
Well, I’m 70 years old and I still stretch the very same way by easing into whatever physical activity I am about to do. I never do actual stretching at all, because I know it won’t work for me.
So for seniors, if you are going to do a weight lifting session before each exercise use a much lighter weight than you will be using for the actual exercise. For example, if you are going to do squats, try doing squats with just the bar with no weights on it.
Or, you could do 10 or 15 squats with no bar or no weights at all. This will gently prepare your muscles for the exercise without forcing them to stretch out. If you’re going to do a bench press, then use a very lightweight or just the empty bar.
If you are a fan of Yoga, but often feel the pain or discomfort when stretching, then perhaps you should do something to warm up your muscles, tendons, and ligaments before you head to yoga class. In the event your legs always feel tight during Yoga class, try going for a brisk walk for 20 minutes or so just before your class.
Maybe an easy swim would make the tight muscles on your upper body more flexible and relaxed and as a result, make your Yoga class much more enjoyable.,
Always keep in mind stretching exercises for seniors should be approached with caution.
Please feel free to comment below if you have something to add about your experience with stretching.