What's the proper way to stretch as I get older?

Dr. Vonda Wright, MD
Orthopedic Surgery
Changes in flexibility are dependent on the frequency and duration of stretching. For people under 65 years old, maximum benefit is achieved with a slow muscle stretch until the muscle feels tight but doesn't hurt. (Slow stretching lengthens muscle fibers without causing tearing and damage. This is important since muscle tears often heal with scars, which are very stiff.) Once you reach this place, hold the stretch for 30 seconds without bouncing. While any stretching is better than nothing, less than 30 seconds is less effective. After 30 seconds, rest for 10 seconds and then repeat the stretch for a maximum of four repetitions. No added benefit is gained if you hold the stretch for more than 30 seconds or do more than four reps.

The caveat to this is if you are older than 65. If you are, you need to hold the stretch for 60 seconds. This will gain almost double the range of motion. If you are younger than 65, there is no added benefit to holding a stretch for 60 seconds.

Perform the set of stretches only once a day. No added benefit has been found with more than one set per day for each muscle group. It takes about six weeks of consistent stretching to see good results, and then you must maintain your muscle length by continuing daily stretches. Studies have found that if you stretch for six weeks and then take four weeks off, you will return to baseline as if you had never put in the effort. The good news is that by starting over, you can regain your flexibility again . . . after six weeks.
Fitness After 40: How to Stay Strong at Any Age

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Fitness After 40: How to Stay Strong at Any Age

It's one of the undeniable facts of life. After we reach a certain age, our bodies change. No matter how fit we may have been at 20, we're very different people after 40. But growing older doesn't...
Especially as we age, flexibility takes on an ever important role in health and fitness. Stretching helps to prevent stiffness and shortening of muscles that can lead to pain and injuries in older adults. The best form of stretching recommended to older adults is static stretching for 30-60 seconds stretching all major muscle groups and joints. Hold a static stretch to the point of mild discomfort but never pain for 30-seconds and repeat as necessary. Perform static stretching before and after exercise most or all days of the week. In time the body’s muscles and joints will become more pliable and will improve in the range of motion. It is important to continue your flexibility training as your body will lose its flexibility if you do not continue to stretch. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.