This Gentle Yet Energizing Stretch Routine for Seniors Will Bring Some Movement to Your Mornings

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If the words creaky, tight, and sluggish define your mornings, a dose of breath and movement could be just what the doctor ordered. Luckily, the latest episode of Well+Good's Trainer of the Month Club offers morning stretches for seniors to help you start the day off on the right foot (and leg, hips, back, shoulders, and neck).

Stretching in the morning is a way your body naturally wakes up, which is why you see babies and dogs intuitively doing those big, yawning, body-opening stretches—officially called “pandiculation”—as they get their day started.

“The theory is that pandiculation is the body’s way of shifting from a resting state into an active state by increasing nervous system arousal and focusing attention,” exercise physiologist Sharon Gam, PhD, CSCS, previously told Well+Good about the biology of morning stretches. “It’s thought that the brain activates a cascade of reactions that prepare the body for action, including redirecting blood flow to the muscles, increasing heart rate and breathing, and shifting attention to the outside world.”

Experts In This Article

But if you’re a senior, stretching might not come as naturally or easily as it does to a wee babe. In fact, the way we approach stretching should change as we age.

"What you should focus on are stretches that will help you obtain the proper range, postures, and positions necessary for your desired activities," Kassandra Reagan, DPT, CSCS, physical therapist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, previously told Well+Good about the best stretches for seniors. "So, depending on what you want to be able to do, your stretches may vary. But a nonspecific full-body stretching routine can also be very beneficial for your general health." It can also be useful to hold the poses for longer than you might think, since it may take a little more time to open up those muscles and joints.

That’s just what Crunch group fitness instructor Liz Fichtner has in store in this new 19-minute morning stretches for seniors video.

“As a senior myself, being 64 years old, I like to start my morning with some mobility in the body, and some good energy running through,” Fichtner says. Throughout the session, Fichtner wants you to hold the poses for the amount of time that feels good to you, based on your body’s particular needs that day. “You can back off. We’re not in any rush to get anywhere. We’re taking a nice slow morning.”

The 19-minute stretch series contains a section of seated floor exercises where you’ll focus on connecting your breath with moves like arm circles, side bends, twists, and folds. You’ll release stress pressure points, like those in your wrist and neck, and start to activate your muscles with a few moves done on your hands and knees. You'll cap it all off with a gentle yoga flow and a delicious savasana (resting pose). What a way to start the day!

You can do the routine in the video above, or follow along with the instructions below.

A 20-minute morning stretches for seniors routine

Format: Stretching and mobility exercises done seated, standing, on hands and knees, and laying down

Equipment needed: A stretch of floor to lay on (like a yoga mat), and something to sit on, like a pillow or yoga block

Who is this floor?: Seniors who want to bring a bit of movement to their mornings.

Moves 1-11 are done sitting in a supported cross-legged position

1. Seated breathing exercise

  1. Sit on a pillow, yoga block, or other support with legs crossed
  2. Breathe and grow tall in the spine, feeling space in between your vertebrae
  3. Repeat for 30 seconds

2. Arm circles

  1. Lift your arms above your head so your palms meet
  2. Bring your joined arms out in front of you and interlace your fingers, flip your palms to push out and round your spine
  3. Release your arms to the sides
  4. Repeat for 30 seconds

3. Side bends

  1. Take one arm up and over your head and lean over to the opposite side
  2. Repeat on the other side and continue alternating for 30 seconds

4. Side bend look-ups

  1. While at the top of the side bend pose, look up and open up your shoulder
  2. Repeat on the other side and continue alternating for 30 seconds

5. Twists

  1. Raise both arms above your head
  2. Twist over to the right side and as you do so, bring your arms down to place your front hand on the opposite knee, with the back hand on the ground
  3. Return to center, then repeat on the other side
  4. Continue alternating for 30 seconds

6. Twist and holds

  1. At the bottom of the twist, with your front hand on the opposite knee, twist over your back shoulder and briefly hold
  2. Repeat on the other side

7. Forward fold

  1. With your hands raised above your head, bend forward over your feet and place your hands on the ground.
  2. Walk your hands to one side, hold, then walk them over to the other side.

Change the cross of your legs, bringing the opposite foot on top.

8. Neck stretches

  1. Lengthen the top of your spine through your neck
  2. Envision creating space between the joints of your neck and shoulder
  3. Holding that space open in your mind, tilt your head to the side, so you get a stretch along the opposite side of your neck
  4. On the side that is getting the stretch, float the arm up, somewhere between your waist and shoulder.
  5. Make a fist and rotate your wrist one way, and then the other way
  6. Gently release the fist, arm, and neck stretch
  7. Repeat on the other side

9. Neck circles

  1. Drop your chin to your chest
  2. Rock your head gently from side to side
  3. Place your thumbs underneath your chin and use them to lift your head up
  4. Make a full circle with your head, switching directions at the top of each circle
  5. Return to center with your head in a neutral position
  6. Jut your head out, and bring it back, pulling your chin into your neck

10. Shoulder rolls

  1. Place your hands on your shoulders, with your bent elbows out in front of you
  2. Open your elbows out to the side, up, back, and back to the front, making a circle

11. Wrist stretches

  1. Extend your arms out in front of you
  2. Flip your palms face up
  3. Extend your fingers down and pull gently with the opposite hand creating a wrist stretch.
  4. Repeat on the other side
  5. With your palm face down, make a fist
  6. Rotate your wrist out to the side

12. Leg lifts on your hands and knees

  1. Come onto your hands and knees
  2. Slide one leg back so that your knee is straight and your toes are on the floor
  3. Lift the leg up to parallel with your hips
  4. Lower back down and return to hands and knees position
  5. Repeat on the other side.
  6. Repeat the move but lift the arm of the opposite arm when you lift the leg.
  7. Repeat on the other side
  8. Come out of the hands and knees pose by lifting your hips into a downward dog with bent knees, and then slowly walking your hands and knees together until you can lift up into standing

13. Standing side bend

  1. Standing upright, lift your arms above your head
  2. Grab your wrist with the opposite hand, and side bend as you pull your wrist to the opposite side
  3. Repeat on the other side

14. Sun salutation

  1. From standing with your hands up above your head, bend over and let your hands rest where they fall naturally
  2. Place your hands on your shins or your thighs so that you can bring your straight back parallel with the floor
  3. Bend forward
  4. Slowly rise back up into standing
  5. Repeat
  6. Add a twist: At the top of the pose, twist over one shoulder, and bring your back arm behind you and your front arm in front of you, so your chest is open to the side
  7. Repeat the twist on the other side, then go through the sun salutation again

15. Vinyasa

  1. Come into a modified plank pose, with your knees on the ground
  2. Bend your elbows straight back behind you as you lower down onto your belly
  3. Lift your head, neck, and shoulders into a baby cobra
  4. Lower back down
  5. Push back into a child’s pose

16. Hip stretch

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you
  2. Gently bend your knees, feet flat on the floor, and cross one ankle over the opposite knee
  3. Hold, then repeat on the other side

17. Spinal twists

  1. Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor
  2. Drop your knees together to one side
  3. Come back to center and repeat on the other side

18. Savasana

  1. Lay face up flat on the floor with your arms extended to the side and your feet relaxed
  2. Breathe for one minute
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