Exercise for Healthy Aging: Flexibility

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Flexibility (stretching)

Stretching makes every movement easier! Stretching helps you develop and maintain your flexibility and release muscular tension. Start with exercises adapted to your physical condition. As your flexibility grows, you can gradually increase the difficulty or duration of your exercises. You should always stretch out the muscles you worked during your strength exercises. If stretching exercises are the only exercises you do, start with two or three minutes of warm up, such as walking in place. You should never feel pain when stretching; discomfort perhaps, but pain no! Stretching should be done without pain, and you should concentrate on your breathing. Maintain a slight bend at the joints to avoid hyperextension. For a complete series of stretches, start with your head and upper body, and move down to your leg muscles.

Frequency and duration

If you are not doing strength exercises, you can stretch at least 3 times a week for 20 minutes, but make sure to warm up first by doing two or three minutes of walking (in place or otherwise). Each stretching exercise should be repeated 3 to 5 times. Stretch slowly and hold your position for 10 to 30 seconds. Release and repeat.

A few examples of flexibility exercises

  • Stretching
  • Yoga
  • Bowling
  • Qi Gong and Tai Chi

Qi Gong (pronounced "tchikong") and Tai Chi are disciplines based on Chinese philosophy that originate over 7,000 years ago. Combining movements, poses, breathing exercises and meditation, these two disciplines are beneficial for anyone who practices them, particularly people who suffer from chronic illnesses and older people who are in fragile health or with reduced mobility.

Among the benefits of Qi Gong and Tai Chi:

  • Reduced hypertension 
  • Reduced stress, anxiety and depression
  • Reduced fear of falling
  • Improved immune system
  • Improved quality of life in general
  • Improved flexibility

Next: Resources, Links and Glossary

 

We are pleased to house this series of FAQs supervised by Cara Tannenbaum, from the Centre de recherche de l’Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal.

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