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April - Healthy Challenge

Our April Healthy Challenge - Stretching

We are 1/4 of the way through the year now and we hope you are enjoying these healthy challenges we began at the start of the year:

January - drinking more water

February - eating a heart healthy diet

March - working on our balance

For a lot of older adults, maintaining mobility can be difficult. Muscles and joints weaken and our range of motion can deteriorate as we age. Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong and healthy and we need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in our joints. Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight and as grandparents, we definitely can feel our age if we aren't flexible when playing with our grandchildren.

No matter your level of activity, stretching exercises for seniors are an important addition to any exercise routine and, of course, before you begin an exercise routine, consult your physician.

When to use stretching exercises:

For active adults who routinely exercise, the best time to perform these stretches is at the end of the activity while your muscles are still warm and loose. Before you exercise, a 5 minute walk or jog is recommended. But as far as stretching exercises in active grandparents, the stretching should come after your workout to maximize results.

For less mobile grandparents, stretching can be done at virtually any time of the day. As with active adults, make sure to walk around for a few minutes before stretching to ensure your muscles are loose and warm. The stretches themselves are not the warm up.

Here are few exercises to help with your mobility and flexibility.

Standing Quadriceps Stretch - As the largest extremities, the legs may require multiple stretches for the full benefit these stretches yield. This exercise focuses on the quadriceps muscle, located on the top half of your upper leg. Getting up and down from playing on the floor with the grandkids is a must so this one is so good.

  • Grab a chair or the back of an exercise bike (like I have here) for support, as you will be balancing on one leg for this exercise. The heavier the support, the better.

  • Hold on to the chair with your left hand. Bend your right knee and using your right hand, grab your leg by the ankle and gently pull your foot towards your bottom.

  • Hold for 10-30 seconds and repeat with your left leg.

Hamstring Stretch - this exercise targets your lower back and your legs and will decrease stiffness keeping your legs and back mobile and loose. This is a great stretch to keep up with those precious little ones. When I am with them, I'm constantly running around so this stretch is a must for me.

  • Select a firm surface to sit on.

  • Next, extend one of your legs out on the surface.

  • Slowly lean forward, breathe and reach for your thigh, knee or ankle. Be careful with this stretch as you do not want to hyperextend your hamstring.

  • Hold for 10-30 seconds and repeat with the other side of your body.

Shoulder Stretch - this stretch can loosen up your shoulder joint, which can be used to alleviate muscle pain and prevent deterioration.

  • Stand or sit straight up - as tall as you can.

  • Grab one of your arms with your opposite hand and slowly, gently pull your arm across your chest until you start to feel a stretch in your shoulder. While you stretch, make sure that you keep your elbow below shoulder height.

  • Hold this position for 10-30 second and repeat with the other arm.

There are many health benefits to stretching as well. Some of them are:

  • Increasing flexibility to prevent injury

  • Reducing inflammation

  • Improving strength

  • Freedom of movement

  • Relaxation and mental well being

There are so many other great stretching exercises out there as well. The important thing is to keep moving and stretching. The more I do this, the younger I feel. After exercising and/or stretching, be sure to hydrate (January health challenge).

My grandchildren inspire me daily - not only to be the best Gigi for them but to be the best me for myself. Grab an accountability partner for these challenges or better yet, if you need inspiration just think about all the little blessings in your life.


Gigi Susie

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