As we age, our bodies naturally undergo various changes that can lead to our joints and muscles feeling stiff.
This can make even simple tasks like getting out of bed or climbing a flight of stairs feel like a challenge.
The good news is that there are ways to overcome this natural loss of flexibility, and to maintain a limber body even in your 50’s, 60’s and beyond.
By incorporating simple exercises like stretching and yoga into your daily routine, you can help your muscles stay supple and your joints moving freely.
In this guide, we outline the importance of flexibility (as well as why doing mobility exercises is equally important), as well as highlighting 4 exercises you can do daily to help improve your overall movement.
Stretching Apps and Programs
Being Flexible Over 50
Is it really possible to be flexible over 50? Absolutely!
As we age, muscle mass naturally declines and we lose bone density, which leads to reduced flexibility. However, by stretching frequently and staying active, we can reduce this natural decline and improve our flexibility, mobility and overall movement.
It’s important to actively work on flexibility over 50 because the stiffness that comes with age can be particularly limiting. It’s not just a matter of restricted movement; it can also cause pain and discomfort. For example, stiffness in the hip joints and associated muscles (e.g. the psoas), can contribute to a pelvic tilt and lower back pain.
Improving flexibility over 50 brings benefits such as:
- Reduced risk of injury
- Improved range of motion
- Reduced pain in back, joints and muscles
- Improved posture and balance
- Improved mental wellbeing
- Increased muscle blood flow
Fitness Over 50
4 Stretching Exercises to Help Improve Flexibility Over 50
Supine Wall Straddle
Muscles Targeted – Inner Thighs, Hamstrings
The supine wall straddle is a great beginner-friendly stretch that targets the inner thighs (also known as the adductors).
Tightness in these muscles can lead to groin strains, as well as limiting lower body movement patterns.
To do supine wall straddles, lying face up, place your glutes as close to as wall as possible. Extend your legs up the wall and slowly drop them to the sides until you feel a gentle stretch in your inner thighs.
Hold this for between 30-60 seconds and repeat 3 times.
Over time, you can gently push on your legs to increase the stretch too.
Book Opener Stretch
Muscles Targeted – Back
The book opener stretch is a great way to instantly relieve tension in your back, especially the upper back/thoracic spine.
It can be really useful to counteract sitting at a desk all day, where the spine hasn’t been mobile.
It’s a dynamic stretch, which means it involves movement. We would recommend starting with between 8-12 repetitions on each side.
To do the book opener stretch, lie on your side with your knees bent and both arms stretched out in front, stacked on top of each other.
As you exhale, lift the top arm up and over your body towards the floor, to open up your chest. Pause for a moment, before returning your arms to the starting position.
Repeat this for repetitions and repeat on the other side.
You may want to place your head under a pillow to support your neck during the movement.
Muscles Targeted – Hips, Legs and Back
The samson stretch is a great way to target the muscles located deep in the front of the hips (psoas muscles). These can be tricky to stretch, yet they can often get stiff from sitting all day.
The samson stretch involves a lunge forward with your arms stretched overhead and your back knee on the floor. Gently drive your hips forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your hips.
You may want to rest your back knee on a yoga mat or cushion to make it more comfortable.
Dynamic Child’s Pose/Prayer Stretch
Muscles Targeted – Back and Hips
The prayer stretch, which is basically “Child’s Pose” in yoga (with arms extended forward), is a great way to stretch the back as well as open up the hips.
From a quadruped (tabletop) position, gently sit back towards your heels.
You can either hold this position (static), or return to the starting position and repeat this for 8-12 repetitions (dynamic). We tend to prefer doing the dynamic variation to work on hip mobility, as well as stretching out the back.
From this position, you could also include a rotation like thread the needle stretch.
Types of Stretches
Static stretches involve holding a stretch for a specific duration. Once you get into the stretch position, you hold this without additional movement.
Dynamic stretches involve movement. Your muscles are used to provide the stretch.
Don’t Forget Mobility
When we think about improving movement and becoming less “stiff”, we often only think about improving flexibility.
Mobility is the ability for joints to move freely through their full range of motion. To put it another way, good flexibility isn’t worth much, without good mobility.
Mobility can be seen as improving the strength, stability and control around joints, so you move more meaningfully.
Hip mobility exercises, in particular, can make a world of difference when it comes to improving overall movement. Stiff hips will restrict both upper and lower body movements.
Although some people may be born with better flexibility than others, and that flexibility will likely decline with age… you can certainly improve your flexibility, mobility and movement by doing daily stretches and movement routines.
When it comes to trying to regain flexibility over 50, little and often is the best approach.
As well as stretching, taking up activities like yoga, Pilates, swimming, dancing and Tai Chi can all help to keep your joints and muscles moving.
If you’re starting a new fitness plan, take things nice and slow and listen to your body.