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  • Karen McPhail, RN, MSN

The Importance of Daily Stretching and Exercise!

Daily exercise and stretching is important at any age for several reasons. Exercise and stretching helps to keep you healthy (heart, lungs, GI, immune function, stress management, cognition, memory, and more), your muscles strong, assist with your mobility, balance, strength, and your overall flexibility. As we get older it is important to maintain our strength and flexibility in order to help with mobility, balance, and proper range of motion in our joints. Proper stretching and movement exercises helps us to avoid muscle shortening and tightening. If we do not maintain our muscles they will weaken and this can lead to decreased range of motion, mobility issues, falls, fractures, and other possible injury. Consider stretching and movement exercises another important preventative health step! Try to make exercise and stretching a part of every day. Stretching our head, neck, lower back and shoulders, where tension tends to settle is very important. Also rolling joints such as hips, knees and ankles will help to lubricate joints which often effects mobility. Physicians recommend 30 minutes of cardio-respiratory exercise each day. This can be done through walking, biking, swimming, aerobics or even chair exercise. All of these when done properly and consistently can be of great benefit. Strength training can also be done with guidance from a professional. Strength training helps to prevent the loss of bone mass and assists with improving overall balance and strength. Strength training can be a essential step in preventing falls and broken bones. Resistance bands, hand weights and more can be done 2 to 3 days a week with rest days in between being vital. Consult your physician and a knowledgeable trainer when beginning.

Some added points...

When stretching, always hold a stretch strong, firm without wobbling or pulsing, for around 30 seconds. Never hold the stretch if it is painful. Stretching should feel good and provide only slight pressure... it should never be done to the point of discomfort or pain. You can stand to do stretching by keeping your legs spread slightly and knees bent, holding your back straight and core muscles as tight as possible or you can sit in a chair if more comfortable. Some excellent senior exercise tapes are on the market and can be used for variety. Tai Chi, chair exercise, water aerobics, pilates, swimming, and senior yoga are also excellent ways to stretch and get moving. Classes can be accessed as appropriate via video, TV, or by attending classes in your community or through a senior center. As with all exercise programs please consult your physician before beginning to obtain proper guidance.

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