As you age, stiffness settles into your joints more easily. This can make it more difficult to move around and maintain an active lifestyle. So how do you overcome stiffness and stay limber after 50 or 60?
As your body is slows down with age, everyday activities may start to feel more strenuous than they used to. A sedentary lifestyle only makes this situation worse.
Although people of all ages struggle with flexibility, the stiffness that comes with age is different. You may think that less flexibility only affects how you move, but it can also cause pain. For example, if the muscles in the front of your legs are too tight, it can limit movement in your pelvis and hips. This leads to lower back pain.
Flexibility benefits you in more ways than one. It improves your movement overall and helps prevent simple strains and injuries, including:
- Muscle and disk strains
- Shoulder strains
Types of Stretches
There are different methods for stretching your muscles, and each one has its own benefits. It’s important to stretch in different ways as you try to improve your flexibility after 50 or 60.
Static Stretching. When you hold a position for an extended period of time, the stretch is considered static. You may hold a position for 30 seconds, then relax, and repeat this for 3 to 5 times before moving on to your next stretch. Be careful to hold the position without “bouncing.” This creates more tension in the muscle and can lead to injury. If you’re already limber, these stretches may not be as beneficial for you.
Isometric stretching. Similar to static stretching, you hold a position and gently contract your stretched muscle during a stretch. Hold your pose while alternating 15 to 20 seconds of contracting and relaxing your muscle. This type of stretching improves strength along with flexibility.
Dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching involves actively moving your muscles and joints with a set motion for a set of repetitions, usually around 10-12. These can be things like head rolls, walking lunges, leg swings, or hip circles. With each turn, you stretch a little further, using fluid movements. Just as with static stretching, you should never make bouncing movements.
Make a Stretching Routine
Once you understand the types of stretches, you can put a plan in place. The key to consistency is to make sure your goal is attainable and your plan is sustainable. Setting goals that are too far out of reach may discourage you, and being overzealous can lead to burnout or giving up.
Decide on a routine. Decide on the best time of day for you to stretch. Maybe you’re a morning person or an evening person. Maybe you already have a dedicated workout time, and you can incorporate stretching into your existing routine. When you establish a routine, you’re more likely to stick to your plan.
Incorporate exercise. Stand-alone stretches aren’t the only way to improve flexibility. Many activities also improve your flexibility through movement and holding poses:
Be consistent. You may not see results in the first week or month after you begin stretching. But keep up with your practice and keep stretching every day. Over time, you should feel less stiffness when you wake up. You’ll also find that everyday activities are easier to do with increased flexibility.
Possibility of injury. Even when you’re careful, injuries can happen. While some discomfort is normal during stretches, you should never feel pain. The same goes for after stretching. You may feel slightly sore in the days following a good stretch, but pain means that something’s wrong.
Listen to your body. Pay attention to your body’s signals to know if you’re taking stretches too far. Stretching should apply gentle pressure to your muscles and joints. By knowing your limits and not going too far, you can keep injuries from happening.
Remember that progress can be slow sometimes. It’s better to take your time than to cause damage that sets your stretching practices back.