Created by the Center for Spirituality & Healing and Charlson Meadows.

Add Flexibility and Balance Exercises

Senior women stretches in a park

Although they are not discussed as much as aerobic and strength-building exercises, exercises to increase your flexibility and balance are a key part of a beneficial fitness plan.

Add stretches to increase flexibility

Flexibility exercises can improve overall ease of movement, decrease stress on the joints, and reduce risk of injury. Because flexibility exercises help improve blood flow to the muscles, stretching an injured muscle will speed up your recovery.

Although they are not specifically recommended in the Physical Guideline for Americans, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends that you incorporate flexibility exercises a minimum of two to three days per week into your overall fitness program.

Most fitness centers have posters with stretches for all muscle groups that you can do after an aerobic exercise, when your muscles are warmed up. Mindful movement exercises, such as yoga and tai chi, are also excellent for developing flexibility and Pilates can improve flexibility, as well as core stability.

Include exercises to improve balance

Good balance can help prevent falls. Balance training helps improve your equilibrium and your ability to withstand and quickly recovers from situations that make your balance unstable. In addition, balance is essential for various sports and fitness activities.

To improve balance, you must improve your core strength so you can have a good base of support and control movement. Core strength can be improved through Tai Chi, Pilates, and core specific floor exercises. Yoga is also excellent for developing core strength and balance.

Older adults at risk of falls should do balance training three or more days a week. Examples of these exercises include backward walking, sideways walking, heel walking, toe walking, and standing from a sitting position. Tai Chi exercises also may help prevent falls.

Other simple exercises to improve balance include:

  • Standing on the balls of your feet with your arms straight out to the sides, then slowly lowering your arms to your sides
  • Standing on one foot with your eyes closed
  • Walking very slowly, focusing on lifting and placing each foot

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