Four Important Stretches to Improve your Balance
Staying physically active is a fundamental part of living a healthy lifestyle, and it becomes increasingly important with age. There are many great forms of exercise, including jogging, swimming, and weight lifting, but one of the most overlooked exercises is stretching. Stretching for seniors is highly important, and it has many full-body benefits, including decreased muscle tightness and pain, increased flexibility to help prevent future injuries, improved posture, and many others.
Balance and Stretching for Seniors
One of the most overlooked health aspects is balance, especially as you age. Balance has been shown to decrease with age, and poor balance is associated with an increased risk of falling. Of individuals over the age of 65 who live at home, between 20 and 40 percent fall each year, and a fall can result in bone fractures and lead to a shortened lifespan.
Balance is highly important in everyday life, as it is necessary for going up and down stairs, bending over to pick things up, and even for walking. There are many different balance exercises for seniors, and one of the easiest of these is stretching. These four stretches are a great way to keep your muscles limber and improve your balance.
1. Hamstring Stretch
Maintaining flexibility in the hamstrings is critical for balance during bending, squatting, and lifting movements. Stretching the hamstrings can also help to improve blood circulation and reduce nerve tightness, leading to better feeling joints and muscles.
To stretch the hamstrings, lie on your back with both legs extended. Using your hands or a towel or strap wrapped around your foot, bring one leg off the ground and up towards the ceiling. Keep your leg straight, and continue pulling upwards until you feel a stretch in the back of your leg.
2. Quadriceps Stretch
Quadriceps stretching for seniors is helpful to reduce knee pain, and it can also help improve balance as well, as these muscles are used when standing up and bending down. This stretch can also be a balance exercise in itself, so feel free to use the wall or another surface to keep your balance if needed.
Stand up straight, and carefully bend one knee, bringing your foot up towards your butt. Grab your foot with the hand on the same side of your body, and hold it as close to your butt as you can. Maintain a strong stretch in the front of your leg. For a balance challenge, try not to hold onto anything, or close your eyes if that gets too easy.
3. Seated Piriformis/Glute Stretch
The seated piriformis stretch is one of the most important balance exercises for seniors, as this stretch targets a muscle connecting your lower back to your thigh. The piriformis can push against the sciatic nerve if it becomes tight or irritated. This stretch can help to reduce nerve pain and sensitivity and increase balance.
Sit up straight in a chair, and cross one your ankles onto the opposite knee. While keeping your back flat without slumping, slowly lean forward until you feel a stretch in the glute area and hold it.
4. Cat-Cow Stretch
The cat-cow pose is a dynamic stretch, and it helps to increase flexibility in the neck and spine. Upper body stretching for seniors helps to ensure good posture, which leads to better balance.
Start on your hands and knees, keeping your hands under your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. Then, slowly arch your back downward and lift your head up towards the ceiling. Hold for a moment, then round your back while dropping your head down towards your chest. Continue alternating between positions for 15 to 20 repetitions.
Stretching improves balance-Final Thoughts
Stretching has a number of health benefits, and it is a great way to help improve your balance and keep your body functioning well. These four stretches are a great foundation to build a stretching routine around, so feel free to download or print this article to help you do these exercises at home.