Cool-Down Flexibility Exercises for Senior Citizens
Cooling down after a workout plays an important role in any well-rounded physical fitness routine, and MayoClinic.com emphasizes that a cool-down may help reduce the risk of muscular injuries. Seniors frequently struggle with reduced mobility due to aging muscles and chronic conditions such as arthritis, but a cool-down that focuses on flexibility can improve range of motion and may even reduce muscle pain.
Stretching with Yoga
Yoga can help stretch virtually every muscle in the body. Its focus on breathing can help you cool down and calm down after an intense workout. A 2005 study published in the "Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine" found that yoga could help reduce osteoarthritis-related knee pain, and a 2008 study published in the same journal concluded that yoga can reduce the risk of falls in seniors. You can do yoga at home with the assistance of a video or yoga book, or through a class with a qualified yoga instructor. If any pose is painful, try adjusting your posture or simply trying a different pose.
Dynamic stretches move your muscles through their range of motion, potentially increasing joint mobility. Try rolling your shoulders forward and backward, moving your neck from side to side and rolling your neck. Rolling your ankles and wrists can help loosen up tense muscles and improve range of motion. To loosen muscles in your trunk, try standing with your spine straight and then leaning from side to side using only your torso while keeping your legs and spine straight.
Static stretches are stretches that you hold to improve the flexibility in an individual muscle or group of muscles. You should not force these stretches, and they should not hurt, but you should feel the stretch. Most static stretches should be held for 20 to 30 seconds. Try sitting on the ground with your legs straight and reaching for your toes to stretch your hamstrings, then using a towel or exercise band to pull your feet in toward your torso to stretch your calves. Stretch your back and shoulders by sitting up straight, bending your elbows and then pushing them back toward your spine.
No matter what stretching routine you use, you shouldn't experience pain or popping during a stretch. Stretch at least once a day, and always use stretching as a cool-down because it's risky to stretch cold muscles. Avoid forcing yourself into a stretch or holding stretches longer than a minute or so; most stretches should only be held for 30 seconds. Slow, deep breathing can help you deepen your stretch without experiencing pain. If you suffer from joint pain, ensure that your joints are properly supported as you stretch. For example, yoga poses that require you to place your knees on the ground will be more comfortable if you use a knee-supporting block.