As you age, it’s normal to become less limber. Your muscles shrink and your tendons lose their water content, which makes your body stiffer. But add in less activity from a sedentary lifestyle and your lack of flexibility can become even worse.
“When you sit too much and don’t move around, the muscles in your hips, legs, and calves get tighter,” says Dr. Lauren Elson of the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Department at Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, and faculty editor for Harvard Health Publishing’s special reports, Stretching and Starting to Exercise.
This lack of flexibility can increase your risk of strains and other injuries, and add difficulty to everyday movements like reaching a high shelf, twisting to look behind you in the car, raising your arms overhead, walking up stairs, or squatting or bending to pick up something.
The good news is that it’s never too late to slow or even reverse the loss of flexibility. “You just need to approach your flexibility like any other aspect of your health,” says Dr. Elson.
The main trouble spots for people are the hips, legs, low back, and shoulders and chest. “These are the areas that you rely on most when performing routine movements, and the ones that suffer most when you’re sedentary,” says Dr. Elson. “Of course, everyone is different and you may have certain spots that are tighter than others.”
Stretching is the best way to improve flexibility. “You should stretch every day,” says Dr. Elson. “It should be like brushing your teeth. Stretch after a workout or walk, after a hot shower, or as a break from a long period of sitting.”
Adopt a whole-body stretching program that targets all the major areas and moves your limbs through their full range of motion. (See “Stretch it out” for a sample beginner stretching routine.)
“You can do a complete routine in about five to 10 minutes,” says Dr. Elson. “You can even divide the stretches throughout the day.”
Supplementing your daily stretching with yoga, tai chi, or stretching classes at a community center can further improve flexibility. “They offer routines that may help you focus on your stiffest areas, especially the low back and hips,” says Dr. Elson.
Stretch it out
This four-move stretching routine can help get you going to improve your flexibility. Stretch to the point of mild tension, with no bouncing. Your stretch should always feel good, so back out if you have any discomfort and don’t try to push through it. Hold each stretch for about 10 to 30 seconds.
Repeat the sequence described for each stretch two to four times. As always, see your doctor or a physical therapist if you experience any pain or discomfort while performing these or any other stretches, as this could be a sign of an injury or another problem.
Targets: back, hamstrings, calves
Position yourself on all fours (hands and knees on the floor) with your hands shoulder-width apart, legs hip-width apart, and fingers extended.
Exhale as you lift your knees off the floor, straightening your legs without locking the knees until you are in an upside-down V.
Keep your neck and spine in their natural alignment, with your ears alongside your biceps. Keep your weight evenly distributed between your hands and feet.
Press your heels down toward the floor while keeping your shoulders down and rolled back. (If necessary, bend your knees slightly and let your heels come up off the floor.) Hold, then return to the starting position.
Standing chest and shoulder stretch
Targets: chest, shoulder, biceps
Stand at arm’s length away from a doorway, facing away from it.
Extend your left arm and put your left hand on the edge of the door frame, slightly below shoulder level, palm facing forward and touching the door frame. Keep your shoulders down and back.
Slowly turn your body to the right, away from the door frame, until you feel the stretch in your chest and shoulder.
If the stretch is too difficult, lower your arm on the door frame.
Hold the stretch, then return to the starting position. Repeat on the other side to complete one rep.
Targets: buttocks, hip, thigh
Lie on your back with your right knee bent and the right foot on the floor. Rest your left ankle at the top of your right knee. Your left knee should point to the side. Grasp the back of your right thigh with both hands.
Keep your shoulders down and back, relaxing them against the floor. Slowly lift your right foot off the floor until you feel the stretch in your left hip and buttock. Hold, then return to the starting position.
Repeat with your left knee bent and your right ankle resting on your left knee.
If it’s too hard to grasp your thigh with both hands, put a strap or towel around the back of the thigh and hold both ends.
Double knee torso rotation
Targets: back, chest, hip, thigh
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet together, flat on the floor. Put your arms out to each side at shoulder level, palms up.
Tighten your abdominal muscles and lift both knees toward your chest, then lower them together to the left side. Go to the floor or as close as possible.
Keeping your shoulders relaxed and pressed into the floor, look in the opposite direction. Feel the stretch across your chest and torso.
To come out, bring both knees back to center and return your right foot, then your left foot, to the floor. Repeat the stretch in the opposite direction.
Below are spiritual recipe for health and wellness: Matthew E. McLaren
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV
The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17 NIV
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Philippians 4:4 NIV
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12 NIV
When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. Psalm 94:19 NIV
The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad. Psalm 118:24 NIV
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. Habakkuk 3:17-18 NIV
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16:11 NIV
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:8-9 NIV
I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Isaiah 61:10 NIV
Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. John 16:24 NIV
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7 NIV
A person finds joy in giving an apt reply— and how good is a timely word! Proverbs 15:23 NIV
That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10 NIV
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Romans 12:15 NIV
You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. Psalm 32:7 NIV
Recommended contacts for prayer request and Bible study