Balance and Flexibility Exercises Can Decrease Aches and Pains
By Linda Courtney
You often hear seniors complain of aches and pains in their joints and muscles. The achiness seems to get worse as they get the older, and they often dismiss it as a normal part of aging. However, many of these aches and pains are preventable with a good stretching and flexibility program. Balance is also an area that seems to decline in the elderly. This can lead to falls and broken bones. Some exercises can help increase a person’s ability to maintain balance.
As people get older, they may not move around as much as they did when they were younger. It may be difficult for them, or they just have no reason to do so. The inactivity and lack of movement are what causes the stiffness as well as aches and pains. Getting up and stretching every once in a while is a must. Watch a dog and cat when they wake up from a nap. The first thing they do is stretch their bodies. Instinct tells them that is what they need, and they are correct.
One of the best and most well-known forms of stretching is yoga. Many seniors think they cannot perform yoga as they are out of shape. This is not true. They should not try the more advanced and harder poses, but yoga comes in many other forms. There is even chair yoga for those who cannot stand for long periods. When starting a new exercise program, it is always best to start with gentle yoga and work your way up if you desire. Staying with gentle yoga may be all you need. You just have to do it.
Joining a class is the best way to start. An instructor can make sure you are performing the poses correctly to avoid injury. They can also show you modifications if you are unable to perform the full pose. Participating in a class can also be good for the social aspect of being around others and making new friends. Check your local senior center or health club for classes in your level and ability.
While yoga can help you keep your balance and prevent falls, another practice that is considered excellent for balance is Tai Chi. This is practiced by millions in China and has only recently become more well known in America. It is a series of gentle, flowing movements. Tai Chi is safe and easily performed by most people. You must be able to stand without help, though.
Tai Chi is still not as popular as yoga, and you may have more difficulty finding a class in your area. With some research though you may find a class at your senior center, hospital, or fitness center. If not, perhaps you could suggest they do so. Many doctors are discovering the advantages of tai chi and recommending them to their older patients. Tai chi is best learned withan instructor. It appears to be simple, and it is at the beginning with the basic moves, but it can get harder to follow or master later on. In this case, practice will make perfect. There are some good videos on YouTube that can introduce you to it.
Seniors need to keep active as they get older to avoid joint and muscle pain. Even if they feel they are not capable, they at least should participate in a gentle or chair yoga class. Also, a tai chi class can be helpful. Without movement, the muscles and joints will become stiff and harder to move. Yoga and tai chi are safe, easy ways to keep those aches and pains at bay. Both can also help with balance issues and help prevent a fall.