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Stretch your way to better flexibility

Remember the days when you could do a cartwheel on the beach or sit crossed legged to watch a movie? If you’re like many middle-aged and older women, it may feel like an eternity ago. It’s a fact of life for all of us: just as we all get a few grey hairs, we all lose some flexibility as we age. The good news is, you don’t have to lose all of it. With the right stretching routine and flexibility workouts, you might not quite get to the level of a cartwheel, but you can maintain some of the flexibility you took for granted when you were young. That’s why stretches for seniors—or a stretching routine at any age, really—is so important. 1

The Power of Flexibility

Think of the older women you know who appear youthful. Is it because of their glowing skin and hair? Maybe. Is it because they dress in the latest fads? Perhaps. But when you get down to it, the women who appear the youngest are the ones who move as well as—or at least almost as well as—they did years before. A key part of being nimble and in good physical shape is flexibility. And with flexibility and ease of movement comes greater independence and overall capability.

We all lose a little flexibility as a function of our bodies getting older. Just like car parts wear out on a vehicle that’s a few decades old, so do the joints on our bodies. If you’ve started to feel a little stiff lately and “rusty,” chances are, your flexibility could use a little tune-up. Good news is you can regain some of the flexibility you’ve lost. A good stretching routine is an easy, effective way to increase your range of motion and flexibility. As an added bonus, after-workout stretches just feel so good! 2

How We Lose Flexibility as We Age

As we get older, flexibility decrease for a few reasons. For one, our ligaments and tendons tend to stiffen and become less supple. Secondly, cartilage in our joints starts to break down, which causes joints to become arthritic, inflamed, and painful. It’s difficult to move a painful joint, so we naturally move these joints less, which causes them to get even stiffer and less flexible. And sometimes, lack of flexibility results from joint conditions, such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. 3

Why It’s Important to Stretch

When you’re trying to squeeze a total body workout into a busy day, stretching may be the first element to go. But this shouldn’t be. Your stretching routine is one of the most important parts of a full body workout for women. Stretching and mobility exercises help preserve flexibility, which is critical to healthy aging. Not only does flexibility help with range of motion, it keeps women independent as they age. Bending down, getting up off the floor, and climbing onto a ladder or stool are so much easier when you’re flexible.

To get the most from your stretching routine, always warm up for five to 10 minutes with a walk or other light cardio before you before you stretch. Take a deep breath and slowly exhale as you stretch the muscle, and let the muscle stretch naturally—don’t bounce. 4

Benefits of stretching for women

Next time you’re tempted to skip your stretching routine, remember these benefits of stretching. Workout stretches have numerous benefits. These include:

  • Lower risk of injury
  • Better range of motion in your joints
  • Improves joint alignment, meaning less wear and tear on your joints
  • Increased blood flow to muscles and circulation throughout the body
  • Boost in balance and coordination
  • Stronger posture
  • Better muscle control
  • Improved muscle performance
  • Better performance during a total body workout and other physical activities
  • Feels good! 5

4 Simple Stretches to Start

It’s never too late to improve your flexibility. With the right stretches for flexibility, you can gain confidence and improve your quality of life.

Here are four simple workout stretches to get you started:

Upper Body stretch:

Standing up straight, extend your arms forward, and interlock your fingers in front of your chest with your palms facing away from your body. Then extend your arms up and over your head. Hold for 20 seconds.

Lower Back/Glute stretch:

Stand upright, then slowly bend forward at your waist, reaching your hands to the floor. Feel the stretch in your hamstrings and hold for 20 seconds. Then gently bend one knee at a time, alternating, while keeping both feet flat on the floor.

Neck stretch:

Sitting upright, tuck your chin down to your chest as far as you comfortably can to feel a stretch in the back of your neck. To deepen the stretch, place your hands behind your head and gently push down. Hold for 20 seconds. Repeat the same stretch while tilting your head to each side.

Quad stretch:

Stand upright behind a sturdy surface such as a chair. Holding the back of the chair for balance, grab one foot and hold it behind you, bending your knee. Be sure to keep your knee directly under your hip as you hold this stretch. Feel the stretch down the front of your quad. Hold for 20 seconds.

A good stretching routine is an important part of any total body workout. At Curves, the 30-minute full body workout for women always includes time for a cool down and workout stretches to ensure you are helping your body through a proper recovery post-exercise. If you’d like to focus on stretches for flexibility and mobility exercises even more, Curves offers a 6-week Stretch and Stress Management program to help women focus on stretching and help improve their flexibility. 6

For information about Curves Stretching and Stress Management Program, visit https://www.curves.com/programs/health-and-wellness/stretching-stress-management.

 

References:

  1. The supple senior: regaining flexibility after 60 – a step by step guide
  2. Maintaining Flexibility With Aging
  3. Effects of Aging
  4. Stretching Exercises for Seniors to Improve Mobility
  5. Stretching: Focus on flexibility
  6. Stretching Exercises for Seniors to Improve Mobility
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