Stretching is an effective, low-intensity way to maintain flexibility as you age. Even people who have some mobility impairments can benefit from stretching. Stretching helps protect your body from injury and contributes to better blood flow, supporting your overall good health.
Stretches do not have to be complicated to be helpful. If you have a disability, however, it’s important to choose stretches that will be useful and comfortable for you. Consider these five options for simple stretches you can do every day.
If you can stand safely with one hand on a wall or doorway, you have many stretching options. With one hand braced for support, stretch the other arm as far as it will go over your head. Make sure your neck and head are erect as you stretch. If you can, complete the motion by bending forward. Gripping something in your hand can provide additional support.
In doorway stretches, you also start from a standing position. Face a doorway and brace yourself with one hand on each side. When you are comfortably braced, simply bend gently forward. After bending forward as far as you can, “push” backwards to straighten up. Position yourself closer or further from the doorway to change the amount of bending each stretch requires.
Many people can do seated stretches from their own wheelchair. The simplest seated stretch is to raise your arms slightly and stretch them outward as far as you can without moving your trunk. If your condition allows it, rotate gently to the left, then to the right, with your arms still extended. The arms of a chair or wheelchair can be used to stretch the lower back.
Stretching while lying down in bed is ideal for those who might have trouble stretching from a standing position. You can reproduce many wall stretches on your back in a comfortable bed. Simply stretching your arm out to the side, over the edge of the bed, produces resistance that can enhance the effect of stretches. Small hand weights of one or two pounds can also help.
Almost any exercise you can do in a pool has effects similar to stretching. Swimming is good for fragile joints since it involves no impact and light resistance. While floating in the pool, push against the side to stretch the arms and chest muscles. Swimming against the flow in a pool with a built-in “stream” can provide light but effective aerobic exercise.