Did you know that the biggest problem older people have physically is that they lose their flexibility? Truthfully, most of the injuries that we get after the age of 30 have more to do with a loss of flexibility than anything else. Why do we have these problems?

Bridge  Pose under the Bridge

Sarah Siblik via Compfight

We have these problems because we don’t stretch enough. Stretching allows our bodies to have the ability to sustain things physically better such as falling, the violent twisting of our bodies and our sore muscles. Stretching helps alleviate sore and stiff joint pain also. When we’re more flexible, it means that we’ll recover faster and even potentially reduce the possibility of any real injury to our bodies.

This isn’t a new concept. Things such as yoga, tai chi and qi gong are built on the principles of stretching. The reason massage works is because while it’s relaxing people and bringing fresh blood into many areas, there’s also a bit of stretching by manipulation going on, especially around the joints.

Why don’t most of us stretch enough? Probably because we don’t think of it all that often or don’t see its importance, but another possibility is that we think of it as another form of exercise. It’s a form of exercise, as many athletes stretch before they do anything else.

I have to admit that I don’t do it as much as I should, and I have some physical issues I deal with, especially after I had shoulder surgery last year. I have both back and leg issues that could be relieved greatly if I would stick to a stretching regiment.

However, just because I don’t stretch enough doesn’t mean I don’t know how to do it. I’m going to share six ways that a little bit of stretching can help you to both make yourself more flexible and help to relieve some tension.

1. Let’s start with the legs. What you do is get close to a wall. Then you lean forward until you have either one or both arms on the wall. The next thing you do is you take one leg and you push it back at least 6 to 8 inches behind your other leg. Then push your body forward but you keep your foot, the one that’s in back, down on the floor. You’ll feel the stretch and the pull of your calf muscles at that point, especially if it’s your first time. Try to hold that position for at least 30 seconds; if you’re new you might not be able to make it the first time. Once you’ve finished with that leg switch legs and do the same.

Over time, you’ll start to get used to doing it, in which case you’ll have to modify things like the how far you put your legs apart, getting your body either closer or further away from the wall or even possibly bending your legs a bit. It’s recommended that you try to do both legs 3x during one session, and if possible do it at least one or two more times during the day. So I don’t have to keep repeating it, for all of these try doing them 3 times a day, though I’m not going to lie to you; if I do it once a day it’s a miracle. lol

2. This one is a great reliever for your back as well as tension. Lay face down either on the floor, a mat, or even a mattress. Then push your body up by your arms, and you’ll feel a stretching in your lower back. Try to hold that for at least 15 seconds, then come back down. Do that 5 to 10 times, depending on your comfort level. Your arms will appreciate it as well… unless like me, you’re still recovering from surgery.

3. This one might be a little harder to do because it requires a bit of balance. Take one hand and put it against the wall. Then bend one of your legs up at the knees until you can grab your ankle. The act of doing that might be enough where you will feel the stretch in your quads as opposed to the stretching you felt in your calf with the first exercise. If you need to, pull your leg a bit more until you feel it. Try to hold that for up to 30 seconds, then switch legs.

4. You might remember this one from elementary school. Stand in the middle of a room with your legs slightly apart. Bend over to the front and try to go down as far as you can. Push yourself a little bit trying to get there, maybe by grabbing your legs. Hold it for at least 5 seconds, then pull yourself back up and go all the way back as far as you can. Try doing that one at least 5 times.

5. Still standing in the middle of the floor with your legs slightly apart, do side twists. In this case extend your arms out before you do them. Don’t do them too fast because you don’t want to jerk your body. Instead of holding the position for any length of time, just try to take your body as far as it can go and then go back the other way; if you want to, stop when you’re back to the middle before going the other direction. Do this one 10 times a session.

6. I added this one last year and it’s worked wonders. Find a high chair or use your bed. Lift one leg until it’s flat on the surface; be careful because if it’s high enough you’ll need to make sure you’re balanced so you don’t fall. Lean forward and hold that stretch for 30 seconds. Bring your leg down, put your other leg up and do the same thing. Try doing it 3 times if you can; the most I’ve done is 2. The wild thing about this exercise is that once you’ve completed it, if you bend over trying to touch your toes you’ll find that your reach is 2-4 inches lower. Even if you never touch your toes, you’ll be amazed that it worked. 🙂

These are all simple exercises you can do by yourself at home. If you want something more extensive, you can find out if they offer stretching classes at a gym or you can try to study something like yoga. The most important thing is to do something on a regular basis to help improve your flexibility and protect your body long term.

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