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Stretching exercises to increase flexibility and mobility

When we are young, all of our muscles and joints work amazingly well. But as we age, there is a loss of flexibility and mobility due to several natural causes, according to Mayo Clinic. The tissues around joints have a tendency to become thicker, the cartilage that serves to cushion the joint begins to thin out and overall muscle mass begins to decrease.

However, growing older does not mean the situation is hopeless. It is possible to maintain flexibility and mobility throughout the body. Flexibility mainly involves the length of the muscles involved in a joint. Mobility is more about the joint and refers to the degree that the joint can be moved without being restricted by tendons, muscles or ligaments. Therefore, it is important to incorporate exercises that address both flexibility and mobility to maintain good movement.

Stretching exercise basics 
The National Institutes of Health suggests that older adults try to stretch each of the major muscle groups for at least 10 minutes, two days a week. Begin your exercise session with a warm-up exercise like walking for five to 10 minutes to reduce the chances of injury.

When you are doing a stretching exercise, take a deep breath and then exhale slowly as you do the movement. Hold each stretch for about 30 seconds so the muscle has time to relax into place. Be careful to stretch just until you feel tension. If you are feeling pain, you are overdoing it and can injure yourself. Move smoothly instead of bouncing around to reduce the chance of injury.

The areas of focus
There are eight main areas of the body to address, according to NIH. The first are the neck muscles. Keeping these muscles in shape helps maintain good posture and reduce pain when doing things like driving. A very simple way to exercise the neck it to slowly bring your chin down to your chest and then turn your head from side to side to stretch muscles.

Another area of focus are the shoulders and upper arms which are important for everyday activities like reaching. Exercise this area by holding a towel from one hand that is raised up over your head. Let the towel fall behind your head and onto your back. Then grab the other end of the towel from below with your other hand. Pull down on the towel until you feel tension. Repeat with opposite arms.

Include exercises to stretch your chest muscles which are important for posture and balance. Try holding your arms straight out from your sides with your palms facing forward. Then move your arms backwards until you feel your chest muscles tighten.

Ankle mobility is important for balance. To address this area, sit in a chair with your feet on the floor. Slowly curl each foot toward the ankle and then down again. Then roll the foot from side to side, stretching the ankle muscles.

Ankle mobility is important for balance. To address this area, sit in a chair and slowly move each foot up and down and from side to side, holding each stretch for about 30 seconds.

Keeping your hamstrings flexible can help reduce back pain as well as help with balance. To exercise this part of the body, lay on your back and extend one leg in the air. Grab the back of your thigh and gently pull the leg towards your chest while keeping the other leg and your hips flat on the ground.

The quadriceps are another important muscle group to stretch since they are integral for walking as well as standing. To work these muscles, lay on your side while bending your knee with your foot behind you. Grasp your foot and steadily pull it toward your body until you feel tension in the muscle. Repeat on your other side with the other leg.

The hip muscles also benefit from exercise since they often tighten up. While lying on your back, bring one leg out toward the side of your body. Bend your knee and place your foot on the opposite leg. Then apply a steady pressure on the bent knee with your hands until you feel the muscles stretch. Repeat on the other side.

Finally, be sure to work on stretching the muscles in your lower back. Try lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Then, keeping your knees together, lower them to your right side toward the floor, which should twist your torso. Hold for about 10 seconds and then lower them to the left side.

Regaining loss strength
After a hospital stay or medical event, flexibility and mobility can be even more challenging to regain. Exercise is needed but it should be adapted and individualized to each person. Choosing to recover in a short-term rehabilitation center such as Whitehall of Deerfield allows access to specialized equipment and experienced therapists who can move you toward recovery at a steady and effective pace. Whitehall of Deerfield has been given Medicare’s highest rating in its five-star quality rating system of rehabilitation facilities and is accredited by The Joint Commission, the nation’s leading and most respected health care accrediting authority making it an excellent choice for recovery.

Guests at Whitehall of Deerfield receive the highest quality medical and personal care. Well-appointed rooms feature world-class amenities including concierge service, valet parking for visitors, daily delivery of Starbucks coffee and newspaper, high-speed wireless Internet, dozens of cable channels with a 24-hour channel of newly released movies and much more. Guests enjoy a variety of appetizing menu items either in their own rooms (in-room dining) or in attractive dining rooms. There are also complimentary fresh-baked treats and ice cream available at an onsite ice cream parlor and coffee shop. A life enrichment department provides various leisure and social programs to enhance your stay.

See for yourself if a short-term stay at Whitehall of Deerfield answers all your needs by requesting a private tour. After meeting the team of professionals and seeing the elegant surroundings, it will be clear that Whitehall of Deerfield is an ideal place for short-term care.

To learn more or schedule a tour, visit whitehallofdeerfield.com or call 847-945-4600.

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