Although most of us know how important regular physical activity is, the unfortunate truth is that the majority of Americans aren’t getting nearly enough of it. That’s especially true among older people due to limited mobility issues or fewer opportunities to stay active. But new research suggests that something as simple as stretching one’s muscles regularly could help seniors stay young. So could daily stretching also be key in mobility and injury prevention in older adults?
In the U.S., the average retirement age is 63. Those who are in retirement are generally more likely to experience muscle weakness or have trouble getting around. As a result, this demographic is the least likely to participate in physical wellness activities. However, experts believe that these activities are exactly what could help elderly individuals the most. Although muscle stretching is thought of as a warm-up or cool-down activity for those who are already active, it’s also a low-impact way for those with stiffness or arthritis to get their bodies moving. Yoga is a great example of low-impact stretching.
Research Suggests Stretching is Beneficial for Mobility and Injury Prevention in Older Adults
Researchers from Kansas State University, Florida State University, and the University of Electro-Communications in Tokyo have released data that show stretching five times a week could improve blood flow in the lower legs within a month’s time. They also reported that it improves artery function in the legs, and increases the number of capillaries found within those stretched muscles. For elderly patients with mobility problems, these findings could be significant. Incorporating stretching into their daily routine could mean reduced stiffness and pain with an easier flow of movement.
Researchers also suggest that patients with diabetes-related foot and leg problems or those with peripheral artery disease could benefit from stretching to increase their ability to walk. It could also reduce the number of injuries sustained by the elderly due to mobility problems. As there are 37.2 million injury-related ER visits in the U.S. every year, everything seniors can do to keep themselves up and walking could be a real coup.
It is important to note that the research team’s study was conducted on older rats using splints on their calf muscles. The findings of rat-based studies do not always translate to human patients. However, the benefits of stretching for humans is readily accepted, and researchers admit that the health advantages could even increase if the four-week period is extended.
As researchers said in a study published in the Journal of Physiology: “We did not test a range of stretching or a different time frame for the stretching intervention. It is possible that greater stretch or stretch that increases steadily over the four week period would have an even greater benefit. It is also possible that greater benefit would be seen if the stretching continued for longer than four weeks.”
Lay the Foundation for Healthy Habits Now
To keep one’s body in the best shape possible, experts assert it’s best to lay the foundation for healthy habits now. That includes stretching. According to chiropractors, stretching can relieve stress, improve coordination, increase circulation, and improve balance.
Stretching should never hurt. Stretch only to your resistance point and do not bounce. Breathe deeply and hold your stretch for 15 seconds. This quick activity each day can do wonders for one’s well-being and overall physical health.