By Nicole Dapper, Wellness Coordinator at Twin Towers Senior Living Community
Not everyone can easily touch their toes but this is usually the first thing that comes to mind when someone talks about flexibility. It’s actually pretty uncommon for people to be able to touch their toes even with stretches and regular practice.
But whether you can touch your toes or not it’s important to stretch and strengthen tight or weak muscles to increase your flexibility, balance, and coordination.
4 Types of Exercise to Improve Flexibility
1. Swimming and Aquatic Exercises
If you struggle with land workouts or just want to switch things up, consider swimming and aquatic exercises. In the pool, you don’t have to fear falling or joint injury. This can motivate you to exercise harder, increase range of motion, improve flexibility and utilize muscles you didn’t even know you had!
Aquatic pilates exercises like the Canoe from Wellness Specialist Melissa Frampton can get you started.
Starting Position: Feet shoulder width apart, arms bent, elbows at 90 degrees in front of body, elbows remain close to body.
- On exhale rotate upper body to the left, kicking left leg straight out in front of you.
- On inhale bring leg down and turn body back to starting position.
Repeat 6-8 times exhaling on turn and kick, inhaling when returning to starting position. Repeat using right leg.
Melissa’s Expert Tip: throughout the exercise, keep core engaged, spine long, relaxed neck, forehead, nose, chin, sternum are all in a line.
2. Foam Rolling
Foam rollers release tension, almost like a massage, but unfortunately it's not as relaxing. People tend to have a love hate relationship with them, but they are one of the more popular tools designed to help you maintain or increase your flexibility.
Check out this blog on 3 Easy Foam Roller Exercises to Help Stiff, Tight Muscles for more information about the benefits of using a foam roller.
Studies show that yoga is effective and beneficial for people of all ages, with some people practicing well into their nineties. Yoga is a great exercise to maintain flexibility, build muscle, and improve core strength.
If you haven’t tried yoga before, this variation of the popular Downward Dog pose by Wellness Specialist Minyette Burke is a good place to start.
About Aquatic Yoga
Some people steer away from yoga due to stiffness in their legs, back or hips. For them aquatic yoga may be the answer as the water holds you up and removes pressure from your joints leading to less pain and greater ease performing normal daily activities.
Aquatic yoga exercises like the Chair Pose from Wellness Specialist Minyette can get you started.
The starting position for all movements is the Mountain Pose. Begin with a neutral stance–stand tall, feet shoulder width apart, shoulders over hips, over knees and over ankles. Head facing forward, chin parallel to pool floor, knees soft, feet facing out and forward. Core muscles engaged.
- In Mountain Pose, on the inhale, bring arms up, reach fingertips to ceiling. Arms can also be lowered to chest pressing hands together in front in prayer.
- On exhale sit, pay attention to knees because they may try to buckle in, pull them out toward pinky toe. Bringing tailbone in, pulling forward and pointing down toward floor of pool, core muscles engaged and keeping back straight.
- Hold position for 4-6 breaths.
- Inhale yourself up, bringing arms down, returning to starting position.
Minyette’s Expert Tip: If assistance is needed to maintain balance and proper position in any of the poses, hold on to the side of the pool, or hold hands out at sides. Always work within your own range of motion, and if something hurts, stop immediately.
4. Resistance Bands
Incorporating resistance training into your exercise routine can help to improve your muscle strength, balance, coordination, flexibility and range of motion. Targeting muscles from multiple angles, the bands control the amount of resistance with your body, preventing injury.
Resistance band workouts also fight against bone loss and ease the symptoms of arthritis pain. Bands can be purchased at sporting goods stores, some department stores and online.
If you’re interested in working out with resistance bands, try these 9 Easy Resistance Band Exercises for Seniors
Getting flexible doesn't take forever, it just takes a little discipline. Consistency is your best friend!
Nicole is the Wellness Coordinator at the fitness & wellness center at Twin Towers, The Connection, where you will find an expertly trained team who develops workout routines and exercises that are personalized to your goals. A variety of classes are available and equipment is specifically designed for those aged 50+. The Aquatic Center includes a 75-foot heated pool, aquatic bikes, and a whirlpool.