Help pack a million meals for struggling seniors on 9-11. Volunteer today


AARP Staying Sharp: Keep Your Brain Healthy


The tablet with free 24/7 customer support. Learn More


Military and Veterans Discount



AARP Games - Play Now!

Learning centers

Get smart strategies for managing health conditions.



Heart Disease


Most Popular


Working Out

Stretch for Flexibility

If you're a dog or cat owner, you've probably noticed how often your pet likes to stretch. Stretching feels good, especially after lying around all day. Or, as is more often the case with humans, sitting around all day.

But unlike our furry friends, we're not as likely to get up and stretch our bodies after long bouts of inactivity, even though our bodies would like nothing more. From sitting all day at a desk or computer, we usually move on to a seat in a car, bus, or train, and then home to more seated activity — eating, reading, watching television, paying bills, answering email.

With 60 percent of people over the age of 50 leading an inactive life, is there any wonder that we see more health problems related to joints and muscles that rebel by becoming stiff, sore and even painful?  Aging, too, contributes to tight muscles and poor flexibility because, as we age, muscles tend to become less elastic and tissues around the joints thicken.  That hampers movement.  In fact, you can lose 10 percent of your flexibility every 10 years if you do nothing!  This is really the case of  "if you don't use it, you'll lose it."

The Benefits

The best physical activity routine is one that includes all four building blocks of fitness: flexibility and stability, endurance activities (aerobics, walking), strength training, and balance.

Taking a Back Seat

Stretching helps keep your muscles loose, which improves your flexibility. Regular stretching can make you more mobile, making it easier to bend down, as well as reach for things in cupboards, says Jay Blahnik, a fitness expert and author of the book, "Full-Body Flexibility." "It's like a reward that you can feel every day."

There are other rewards too. Staying flexible can help you:

  • Improve and maintain your range of motion, which improves balance
  • Prevent falls
  • Relieve chronic pain
  • Reduce tension and stress
  • Improve circulation and concentration
  • Boost your energy
  • Improve your posture


Preventing Injuries

Recommendations to stretch or not to stretch are full of misconceptions and conflicting research. There is limited evidence to sort out these issues. Stretching has been promoted for years as an essential part of fitness programs to decrease the risk of injury, prevent soreness and improve performance. But what does the evidence say? Current research suggests that stretching can decrease pain and soreness after exercise. However, no evidence supports the theory that stretching immediately before exercise can prevent overuse or acute injuries.

According to experts, what's key in the injury-prevention debate is how often you stretch. Habitual stretching that you do over a period of time, such as a yoga or stretch class, can reduce your risk of injury. But acute bouts of stretching, or stretching that you do only before and after your workouts, won't.

Playing it Safe

Keep these safety tips in mind when you stretch:

  • Start slowly. It will become easier to stretch with practice.
  • Don't force it. Overstretching can cause pain and injury. You might feel slight tension as you ease into a stretch, but it shouldn't hurt. If it does, stop.
  • Breathe deeply. Don't hold your breath. Breathing slowly and deeply will help you relax and make stretching easier.
  • Warm up. If you stretch before exercising, warm up your body for at least five minutes first, with light movement such as walking or marching in place.   You should avoid stretching a cold muscle, as you can increase your risk of pulling it.
  • Stretch all major muscle groups, holding each stretch for at least 30 seconds. Fitness professionals recommend focusing on calf muscles, front and back thigh muscles (quadriceps and hamstrings), hip flexors, chest (pectoral) muscles, and upper back muscles. You also can stretch your neck, shoulders, wrists, and ankles.
  • Stretch three times a week, if possible, and on most days that you exercise.
  • Be careful about stretching after an injury; if you have a chronic illness, consult a doctor.

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.


Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Walgreens 1 discount membership aarp

Members can earn 50 points per $1 spent on select health & wellness products at Walgreens.

member benefit aarp hear usa

Members save 15% on easy listening devices and more at the HearUSA Hearing Shop.

Eye Med 4 Membership Benefit AARP Discount

Members save up to 60% on eye exams and 30% on glasses at Target Optical.

Membership Benefits Discounts Email Genius

Brain boost? Get AARP email for access to memory exercises & more that help you focus.

Rewards for Good

Your Points Balance:

Learn More

Earn points for completing free online activities designed to enrich your life.

Find more ways to earn points

Redeem your points to save on merchandise, travel, and more.

Find more ways to redeem points