Exercise: Exercises to Try

Frequently Asked Questions

7. What are some flexibility exercises to try?

Below are 6 flexibility, or stretching, exercises to try. Pictures of older adults performing each of these exercises appear on the following pages, with easy directions to help you do them safely. The exercises include

  1. neck stretch
  2. shoulder and upper arm raise
  3. back stretch
  4. ankle stretch
  5. back of leg stretch
  6. calf stretch

Do each stretching exercise 3 to 5 times at each session. Slowly stretch into the desired position, as far as possible without pain, and hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds. Relax, breathe, then repeat, trying to stretch farther.

Before doing stretching exercises, be sure to follow these safety tips.

Neck Stretch

  1. You can do this stretch while standing or sitting in a sturdy chair.
  2. Keep your feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart.
  3. Slowly turn your head to the right until you feel a slight stretch. Be careful not to tip or tilt your head forward or backward, but hold it in a comfortable position.
  4. Hold the position for 10 to 30 seconds.
  5. Turn your head to the left and hold the position for 10 to 30 seconds.
  6. Repeat at least 3 to 5 times.

Shoulder and Upper Arm Raise

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Hold one end of a towel in your right hand.
  3. Raise and bend your right arm to drape the towel down your back. Keep your right arm in this position and continue holding on to the towel.
  4. Reach behind your lower back and grasp the towel with your left hand.
  5. To stretch your right shoulder, pull the towel down with your left hand. Stop when you feel a stretch or slight discomfort in your right shoulder.
  6. Repeat at least 3 to 5 times.
  7. Reverse positions, and repeat at least 3 to 5 times.

Back Stretch

  1. Sit up toward the front of a sturdy chair with armrests. Stay as straight as possible. Keep your feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart.
  2. Slowly twist to the left from your waist without moving your hips. Turn your head to the left. Lift your left hand and hold on to the left arm of the chair. Place your right hand on the outside of your left thigh. Twist farther, if possible.
  3. Hold the position for 10 to 30 seconds.
  4. Slowly return to face forward.
  5. Repeat on the right side.
  6. Repeat at least 3 to 5 more times.

Ankle Stretch

  1. Sit securely toward the edge of a sturdy, armless chair.
  2. Stretch your legs out in front of you.
  3. With your heels on the floor, bend your ankles to point toes toward you.
  4. Hold the position for 10 to 30 seconds.
  5. Bend ankles to point toes away from you and hold for 10 to 30 seconds.
  6. Repeat at least 3 to 5 times.

The following stretching exercises are done on the floor.

To get down on the floor:

  1. Stand facing the seat of a sturdy chair.
  2. Put your hands on the seat, and lower yourself down on one knee.
  3. Bring the other knee down.
  4. Put your left hand on the floor. Leaning on your hand, slowly bring your left hip to the floor. Put your right hand on the floor next to your left hand to steady yourself, if needed.
  5. You should now be sitting with your weight on your left hip.
  6. Straighten your legs.
  7. Bend your left elbow until your weight is resting on it. Using your right hand as needed for support, straighten your left arm. You should now be lying on your left side.
  8. Roll onto your back.

If you've had hip or back surgery, talk with your doctor before using this method.

To get up from the floor:

  1. Roll onto your left side.
  2. Place your right hand on the floor at about the level of your ribs and use it to push your shoulders off the floor. Use your left hand to help lift you up, as needed.
  3. You should now be sitting with your weight on your left hip.
  4. Roll forward, onto your knees, leaning on your hands for support.
  5. Reach up and lean your hands on the seat of a sturdy chair.
  6. Lift one of your knees so that one leg is bent, foot flat on the floor.
  7. Leaning your hands on the seat of the chair for support, rise from this position.

If you've had hip or back surgery, talk with your doctor before using this method.

Back of Leg Stretch

  1. Lie on your back with left knee bent and left foot flat on the floor.
  2. Raise right leg, keeping knee slightly bent.
  3. Reach up and grasp right leg with both hands. Keep head and shoulders flat on the floor.
  4. Gently pull right leg toward your body until you feel a stretch in the back of your leg.
  5. Hold position for 10 to 30 seconds.
  6. Repeat at least 3 to 5 times.
  7. Repeat at least 3 to 5 times with left leg.

Calf Stretch

  1. Stand facing a wall slightly farther than arm's length from the wall, feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Put your palms flat against the wall at shoulder height and shoulder-width apart.
  3. Step forward with right leg and bend right knee. Keeping both feet flat on the floor, bend left knee slightly until you feel a stretch in your left calf muscle. It shouldn't feel uncomfortable. If you don't feel a stretch, bend your right knee until you do.
  4. Hold position for 10 to 30 seconds, and then return to starting position.
  5. Repeat with left leg.
  6. Continue alternating legs for at least 3 to 5 times on each leg.

To see more flexibility exercises, click on "Exercises to Try" on the left menu, then select "Flexibility Exercises."