7 ways seniors can beat stiffness and thrive

The older I get the stiffer I feel when I get out of bed every morning…

And I know I’m not alone in this.

Dr. Mark S. Laches, director of the Center for Aging Research and Clinical Care at the Weill College of Cornell University has said that though morning stiffness isn’t necessarily due to “normal aging,” age-related changes in our cartilage, combined with decreased levels of lubricating fluid resulting from conditions like osteoarthritis, can contribute to morning stiffness.

And it makes sense that after sleeping, even sitting, pretty much motionless for several hours, which prohibits your joint fluid from getting evenly distributed, you can wake up feeling stiff as a board.

Now, no one ever died from morning stiffness… at least not quickly. But the possibility of losing our mobility is one of the things that seniors fear most.

And if you let stiffness turn you into a couch potato, stop you from moving and grooving and doing ‘life,’ now, there is where the danger lies.

Being sedentary for any reason increases your risk for heart disease, cancer, stroke and even depression. As seniors these are health issues that are already knocking on the front door. It would be a shame to let them in when you can spend just a few minutes every day or even every other day creating a more flexible body.

Yoga and tai chi are great exercise to keep a body pliable. But they’re not for everyone. If you feel like you are particularly stiff or need simple exercises — movements, really — then I’ve got seven for you I came upon while researching.

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7 Stretches to overcome morning stiffness

These seven simple movements only take between 10 and 30 seconds to do. You can repeat them up to 3 times, but that depends on you. Start slow and increase them if you are up to it.

Just remember this one thing…

We’re living longer. But the key to living those years healthier and better is up to you. When you keep your body in motion you can actually enjoy those additional years doing every day activities like walking, gardening, vacationing — even just driving.

So, if you want to power through morning stiffness so you can be as active as you want to, give these movements, recommended by the National Institute on Aging Go4Life program that I found at Silver Sneakers, a try……

Upper body movements

Neck
Stand or sit in a sturdy chair with your feet flat on the floor about shoulder-width apart. Turn your head slowly to the right until you feel a gentle stretch. Make sure not to tip your head forward or backward. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds, then turn your head to the left. Repeat three to five times.

Shoulders and upper arms
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold one end of a towel in your right hand. Raise and bend your right arm to drape the towel down your back. Keeping your right arm in place, reach behind your lower back and grasp the opposite end of the towel with your left hand. Now, you should be holding the towel with your right hand behind your neck and your left hand behind your lower back. Gently pull the towel down with your left hand. You should feel a gentle stretch but stop if you feel pain. Do three to five times. Switch hands so your left hand is behind neck and your right hand is behind lower back and repeat.

Arms, chest and shoulders
Stand slightly farther than arm’s length facing a wall with your feet shoulder-width apart. Lean forward and put your palms flat against the wall at shoulder height and about shoulder-width apart. Keeping your back straight, slowly walk your hands up the wall until your arms are above your head, or as far as comfortable. Hold your arms overhead for 10 to 30 seconds, then slowly walk your hands back down. Repeat at least three times.

Back
Sit toward the front of the chair with your feet about shoulder-width apart and flat on the floor. Keeping your neck and back straight, slowly bend forward from your hips. Slightly relax your chin and neck. If you can go a little deeper, continue bending your body toward the floor, and slide your hands down your legs toward your shins. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds, then slowly straighten up until you are in starting position. Repeat at least three times.

Lower body movements

Thighs
Stand behind the chair with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees straight but not locked. Hold onto the chair with your right hand for balance. Bend your left leg back toward your rear and grab your foot with your left hand. Keep your knee pointed toward the floor. If you can’t quite reach your ankle, you can loop a towel, belt, or exercise band around your foot, and hold both ends. Gently pull your left foot toward your rear until you feel a stretch in the front of your legs. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds, then slowly straighten up until you are in starting position. Repeat at least three times with each leg.

Hamstrings
Sit sideways on a bench or other flat surface. Keeping your back straight and left foot on the floor, stretch out your right leg on the bench with your toes pointed up. If you feel a stretch, hold for 10 to 30 seconds. If you don’t feel a stretch, lean forward from your hips, not your waist. Stop when you feel a gentle stretch, hold for 10 to 20 seconds. Slowly straighten up until you are in starting position. Repeat at least three times with each leg.

Calves
Stand slightly farther than arm’s length facing a wall with your feet shoulder-width apart. Lean forward and put your palms flat against the wall at shoulder height and about shoulder-width apart. Step forward with your right leg and bend your right knee. Keeping both feet flat on the floor, bend left knee slightly until you feel a gentle stretch in your left calf muscle. If you don’t feel a stretch, bend your right knee until you do. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds, then return to starting position. Repeat at least three times with each leg.

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Two more important reasons to beat stiffness

  1. Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute recently found that stretching can prevent tumor growth.
  2. Letting stiffness creep up on you can make it harder to handle arthritis pain. In fact, not moving is one of the top 10 arthritis mistakes people make.

Editor’s note: Are you feeling unusually tired? You may think this is normal aging, but the problem could be your master hormone. When it’s not working, your risk of age-related diseases skyrockets. To reset what many call “the trigger for all disease” and live better, longer, click here to discover The Insulin Factor: How to Repair Your Body’s Master Controller and Conquer Chronic Disease!

Sources:

  1. Still, Then StiffThe New York Times
  2. Stretching for Seniors: 7 Simple Moves for the Not-So-Flexible — Silver Sneakers

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Margaret Cantwell

By Margaret Cantwell

Margaret Cantwell began her paleo diet in 2010 in an effort to lose weight. Since then, the diet has been instrumental in helping her overcome a number of other health problems. Thanks to the benefits she has enjoyed from her paleo diet and lifestyle, she dedicates her time as managing editor of Easy Health Digest™, researching and writing about a broad range of health and wellness topics, including diet, exercise, nutrition and supplementation, so that readers can also be empowered to experience their best health possible.