The Importance of Stretching and Regaining Your Flexibility After 50
If you have noticed that your flexibility has reduced over the past years, you are not imagining it. Depending on factors like genetics, diet, and exercise, adults tend to reach their peak flexibility around 25 years of age. It will then start to decline after your mid-thirties. According to studies, adults lose an average of 12-14% of their muscular strength and flexibility after turning 50 due to the natural deterioration of muscle tone, bone density, and tendons’ water content.
However, your 50th birthday should not be seen as a sentence to live in a tight, weak body! Today, the life expectancy for older adults continues to grow – and you might be able to enjoy a functionally strong and flexible body for years to come. But, only with the right exercise and stretching plan!
Here are just a few of the benefits of introducing daily stretches to your routine.
It Allows You To Remain Independent for Longer
Only 27% of seniors over 60 live independently in the US – and this percentage drops dramatically to 14% when looking at the adults over 80 who live alone. And, while you might have been focusing on what your future lifestyle will be after retirement, as you turn 50, you will need to focus on keeping your body as functionally able, flexible, and strong as possible.
Don’t forget that the drastic decline in flexibility that happens as we age affects mostly the spine, neck, ankles, hips, and knees – all essential joints you need to continue enjoying your daily routine for years to come without assistance.
Reduces the Risk of Common Injuries
Building up your flexibility can help you reduce the risk of common injuries affecting seniors. In particular, stretching helps you keep your muscles lean, strong, and long, which means that your daily activities – like walking, running, or even just cooking and cleaning – won’t put too much strain on your joints.
What’s more, creating a more flexible body is essential to fight joint immobilization and a sedentary lifestyle, which can lead to a wider range of issues, including chronic diseases, pain, and obesity.
Reduces the Risk of Accidents
Stretching has more than one benefit. Undoubtedly, the most obvious advantage of a stretching plan is that, over time, you can achieve better results in sit-and-reach tests. But even more importantly, stretching regularly can help you improve your posture, balance, muscle response, and range of motion.
This means that you’ll have lower chances of getting injured in a fall or when walking on uneven flooring.
Relieves Chronic Pain
50 million adults in the US – or 20% of the population – suffer from chronic pain, and nearly 20 million of them deal with high-impact chronic pain. These conditions can vary in intensity and severity, but they can take a toll on your daily life and health.
But what makes the situation worse is that chronic pain and other chronic diseases prevent nearly 40% of adults over 50 from engaging in exercise and stretching. And yet, nothing is as beneficial as stretching to relieve back and joint chronic pain.
By reducing the strain on hips, joints, and the skeletal system, flexible muscles can reduce inflammation and relieve the pain that derives from it.
Can Support Proper Posture
Several factors contribute to your posture – including your lifestyle, work activities, and hobbies. However, the advent of technology has encouraged more and more people to spend hours in front of a computer or smartphone.
If you have noticed that you have started to hunch over, it is time to implement the right stretches to correct your posture. Not doing so can increase your likelihood to develop chronic neck pain and affect your balance, range of motion, and general wellbeing.
Keeps You Stronger, Younger, and More Active
Regular stretching is important to keep your body and mind flexible, young, and supple. Through regular stretching, you can build strength in your muscles, which, in turn, will support your activities and motions. If you practice sports, don’t forget that a stretching plan can boost your physical performance!
How Often Should You Stretch After 50?
There are many reasons why we become less flexible as we age, including a reduction in the joints’ lubricating fluid and a deterioration of the cartilage. That is why it is particularly important to focus on stretching and flexibility after we turn 50. But how often should you practice your stretches?
Indications vary depending on your goals. For example, stretching can boost your blood circulation, improve posture, and elongate the muscles. However, to see these benefits, you will need to dedicate at least 10-20 minutes to stretch every day.
Working with a stretching professional at iFlex can help you understand what the best strategy for your preferences and goals is.
Types of Stretching Strategies
Today, flexibility is still considered one of the major components of physical fitness. And, stretching is what helps you develop static and dynamic flexibility. All stretches have the main goal of elongating the muscles by flexing one or more tendons or muscles. Through these exercises, you’ll be looking to boost your range of motion, muscle tone, and muscle control.
However, there are multiple stretching strategies you should consider:
- Static stretching – Static stretching exercises involve holding a certain flexing position for 30 seconds or longer. The classic “sit-and-hold” stretch falls within this category.
- Dynamic stretching – dynamic stretching involves flexing or stretching your muscles through motion. For example, hip circles, lunges, and head rolls are considered dynamic stretches.
- Isometric stretching – isometric stretching does not involve reaching or pulling. Instead, the stretch happens through muscle contractions, which are held for 15-20 seconds each time and alternated by relaxation periods.
When working with a stretching professional, you’ll be able to explore the best type of stretching for your needs and current physical circumstances.
Best Activities To Continue Stretching As You Age
If you have been dealing with reduced mobility, chronic pain, and localized discomfort such as sciatic pain, it can be hard to take the first steps towards a more active lifestyle. However, getting started with stretching does not have to only involve holding uncomfortable positions.
Oppositely, today, there is a wide range of activities and disciplines that leverage assisted and dynamic stretching.
Don’t forget that the key to seeing results from stretching is to keep up with your plan. And, finding an activity that you truly enjoy can make it a lot easier to stick to a long-term commitment. Check out the options below.
Yoga and Pilates
Yoga and pilates are excellent activities to start building up functional strength, balance, and flexibility. These disciplines leverage a range of fluid movements that can target a variety of muscle groups – not only the ones stimulated by trying to touch your toes!
What’s more, studies have shown that it is possible to boost your flexibility by over 35% just by practicing yoga for 8 weeks. These disciplines also combine aspects of mindfulness meditation and breathwork to make the various positions (asanas) and stretch easier to endure and deepen.
Particularly recommended for adults aged 50 and over, the ancient martial art of “Shadowboxing” can help you build strength and balance through low-impact movements. Some of the greatest benefits of choosing Tai Chi to build flexibility is that this discipline focuses on the contraction and engagement of abdominal and leg muscles.
This makes it an accessible choice for those dealing with chronic pain and other health issues.
Building flexibility through swimming can take longer compared to the other disciplines seen above. However, swimming is a low-impact activity that focuses on improving your range of motion in a safe environment. And, as your range of motion expands, your muscles will be prompted to elongate to allow for broader and more fluid movements.
Assisted stretching is an excellent way to make stretching both relaxing and more efficient.
Practiced in partnership with a professional, this activity allows you to expand your range of movement in all safety, while also maximizing your results. Let’s look at this kind of stretching technique in more detail.
What Is Assisted Stretching?
Simply, assisted stretching is a stretching technique that leverages the assistance of another person. Your stretching partner will prompt your muscles and joints to elongate and become more supple through targeted exercises that are tailored to your unique needs.
During your assisted stretching sessions at iFlex, a specialized Stretch Therapist will add resistance to your movements, thus helping your muscles lengthen without spasms, discomfort, or risk of injury.
While it might be simple at first, there is a lot more to assisted stretching than meets the eye.
How Does Assisted Stretching Work?
Assisted stretching represents a long-term health solution to combat chronic pain, tight joints and muscles, and low flexibility. Unlike over-the-counter pain medications, a stretching plan will help you naturally relieve pain, build flexibility, and reduce inflammation. But what is the difference between standard stretching and assisted stretching?
Firstly, it is important to understand that the aim of assisted stretching sessions is to reprogram the “stretch reflex” – or the natural response our body activates in a stretch, which is designed to prevent overstretching and injuries.
The stretch reflex, which is also known as the myotatic reflex, is a reaction that causes a muscle to contract when it is passively stretched. In a real-world scenario, this reflex can save you from significant injuries – for example, if you are about to slip on ice and your legs’ muscles are suddenly overstretched.
However, in the world of fitness and flexibility training, this same reflex can prevent you from unlocking your full flexibility potential. Indeed, when you are trying to stretch a certain muscle, the stretch reflex comes into play by regulating the maximum length of the stretch.
When you are stretching with resistance – like in the case of the assisted-stretching program designed by the Stretch Therapists at iFlex – you can safely bypass this reflex, making each stretch more efficient.
What’s more, assisted stretching can eliminate spasms, pain, and discomfort from the stretching process, and make stretching even more relaxing and enjoyable.
But why should you be choosing assisted stretching over other types of yoga? Here are the benefits worth considering.
Why You Should Opt for Assisted Stretching? The Benefits of Assisted Stretching for Over 50
If you are taking the first steps along a journey towards flexibility and strength, partnering with a specialist can often be helpful. Working with a Stretch Therapist can help you overcome the challenges of sticking to a stretching routine, track your progress, and analyze your results.
But even more importantly, studies have demonstrated that an 8-week active-assisted stretching program can significantly boost your range of motion, functional power, posture quality, and muscle control.
Ultimately, assisted stretching can be particularly effective for aging adults who are looking to find guidance and help to improve their flexibility. But why is assisted stretching more beneficial than other types of stretches?
Assisted Stretching Can Help You Maximize Your Efforts
After your initial consultations with a specialized Stretch Therapist at iFlex, you’ll notice that some of the stretch practices can be done without the help of another person. For example, you can easily practice a leg or arm raise, or a twist by yourself and from the comfort of your home.
However, when doing so there are several pitfalls you’ll need to watch out for. Some might prevent your stretches from being efficient, while others can actively cause injury!
When opting for assisted stretching, you can maximize the results you’ll see from your efforts. A specialized therapist will guide you through each movement and ensure that you are keeping the correct posture.
Lastly, don’t forget that assisted stretching techniques look to bypass the natural “stretch reflex” of the body, which is something that you’ll find hard to do by yourself without proper training.
Partner-Assisted Exercises Can Reduce the Risk of Injuries and Chronic Pain
If you are not an expert in stretching, trying to improve your flexibility by yourself can be both inefficient and risky.
Some common stretches – such as aiming for your toes and sit-and-reach exercises – can help you release some tension from certain muscles.
However, they might not be able to effectively target the ones that hold the most tension or inflammation. And, don’t forget that our body is a complex mechanism, in which each part relies on the next one. So, stretching a single muscle will not help you become more flexible.
Additionally, when practicing stretches by yourself, you can run into injuries such as overstretching, which is quite common with neck stretching exercises.
Partner-assisted stretching and resistance stretching, when performed by a Stretch Therapy professional, can help you work towards improved flexibility with no risk of injury.
Working With an Expert Can Improve Your Mobility and Physical Performance
Assisted stretching programs are essential for athletes looking to boost their performance. But they are just as important for mothers, fathers, partners, and professionals who are looking to continue living independently through their retirement years.
When partnering with a professional, you can become functionally stronger and more flexible. This means that you might not work toward finally trying to touch your toes. But, rather, towards goals like dealing with daily tasks with ease, preventing inflammation from affecting your daily life, and reducing chronic pain. So, you are likely to notice your results as the improved ability to walk up and down the stairs, sit in front of your computer, exercise at the gym, and enjoy the time spent outdoors.
An Assisted Stretching Program Can Be Tailored to Your Needs
While we all deal with some common issues, like tight muscles, tension, and inflammation, each person is unique. In turn, some patients might be struggling with movement disorders, reduced mobility as a result of past trauma, or neuromuscular disease. Others might be healthy individuals who are looking to fight back the effects of aging.
In any case, your therapist will guide you through a range of exercises that are crafted to your unique needs and can help you achieve specific goals such as improved blood circulation, greater range of motion, increased functional strength, or better balance or posture.
What’s more, a stretching coach at the iFlex Stretch Studios can understand what unique challenges are preventing you from achieving your desired goals, including chronic pain, fear, or lack of motivation. But working with a partner can boost your accountability and, in turn, your results!
You’ll have the chance to discuss your goals with your therapist during your first session.
The Bottom Line
Assisted or resistance stretching are excellent strategies to consider when looking to boost your flexibility and overall health. And, prepare to live your retirement years independently and healthily. However, whatever stretching program you decide to choose, make sure to combine it with regular physical activity and a healthy lifestyle.