By Siobhan Hicks, MPH
Stretching is a very important aspect of staying physically active that seems to be ignored as we age. Although the types of stretches and duration of performing them vary amongst professionals, research has long found the benefits of stretching and flexibility for different age groups, especially among older adults.
Stretching is a way to combat aging
According to Kassandra Reagan, DPT, CSCS, a physical therapist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, stretching is an excellent way to combat the natural effects of aging and improve our general health and wellness.
“As you get older, the benefits of stretching stay the same, but the importance of it changes, according to Reagan. “There are physiological changes that occur—some specific to our muscles,” she explained. “They lose strength and power, decrease in mass, the decline in endurance, and flexibility becomes more limited.” Taken together, these changes can end up limiting our functional abilities in day-to-day life, and increasing our risk of falling, getting injured, or simply being in pain.”
What are some of the benefits of stretching?
Researchers have found that stretching has a positive effect on muscle strength, and flexibility, improving the range of motion in your joints, as well as getting your blood supply to your musculoskeletal system (e.g., bones, cartilage, ligaments, and connective tissues) to protect against injuries.
Stretching has been found to relieve pain caused by excessive muscle tension and has been used as an alternative form of aerobic exercise in diabetic, stroke, and oncology patients.
From sports to rehabilitation therapy, and overall daily life, stretching can be seen in various parts of our life and in different activities. Yoga is one of the most widely known and highly practiced activities that comprises stretching, breathing, relaxation, and posture.
Yoga and other variations of exercises that encompass stretching has been found to lower stress levels and enhance immunity. Even at moderate intensity, these exercises can be successfully performed by older adults to compensate for the lack of exercise and improve overall health.
No matter what age you may be, consider adding stretching to your daily exercise routine.
**Note: Siobhan Hicks, MPH, (Guest Contributing Writer), Assistant Director, McNair Scholars Program, Kent State University, Kent, OH
Arntz, F, et al. (2022). “Chronic Effects of Static Stretching Exercises on Muscle Strength and Power in Healthy Individuals Across the Lifespan: A Systematic Review with Multi‑level Meta‑analysis.” Sports Medicine, https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-022-01806-9
Hospital for Special Surgery. (2023). Your Approach to Stretching Should Change As You Age. Here’s How.” https://news.hss.edu/your-approach-to-stretching-should-change-as-you-age-heres-how/
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