Stretching for the Active Adult Woman
By Ryann Roberts, DPT and Brooke Smith, DPT
AZOPT Physical Therapists

It is hard enough to squeeze a daily exercise routine into your busy schedule.  You may think adding extra time with a before or after workout stretch is something you should just fit in when time permits.  The focus is on the exercise, not the stretch, right?  Wrong.

Stretching is just as important in your workout routine as the actual exercise.  Stretching increases flexibility, which in turn will help to increase your athletic performance and decrease your risk of injury.  For the active adult woman, the emphasis is on decreasing the risk of injury.  Understanding why stretching helps, and what stretches the active adult woman should perform, can help reduce and/or eliminate these injuries.

Stretching can help improve flexibility.  Flexibility may decrease your risk of injury by allowing your joints to move through their full range of motion.  For example, let’s say you are a 60 year old woman with tightness in her hips and ankles.  This tightness prevents your body from going through its full range of motion, which eventually can develop into tendonitis in your knee or lower back pain.  Properly stretching can increase the range of motion in your hips thereby reducing the risk of these micro traumas to your tendon that may lead to overload or injury.

Stretching also increases blood flow to the muscles, sending oxygen to the tendons and ligaments, essentially waking them up and preparing them for your workout.

There are two types of stretching routines to perform – dynamic and static.  Dynamic stretching is stretching with movement, designed to propel the muscle into an extended range of motion.  This form of stretching prepares the body for physical exertion and performance.  Static stretching is used to stretch muscles while the body is at rest.  It is composed of various techniques that gradually lengthen a muscle to an elongated position (to the point of discomfort) and hold that position for 30 seconds to two minutes, two or three times per stretch. 30 seconds is the minimum duration to get the benefits of stretching, whereas two minutes is the maximum.

Always take the time to make sure you are stretching safely and effectively using proper technique.  Stretching incorrectly can actually do more harm than good.  Stretching cold muscles may cause injury, so we recommend warming up with some low intensity cardio for five minutes before beginning any stretching.  When stretching, do not bounce.  Bouncing can cause small tears in a muscle.  These tears cause scar tissue in the muscle that as it heals tightens the muscle even more, making you less flexible and more prone to increasing pain and causing injury.

To help, we have prepared a stretching routine to perform before and after you exercise.

The following dynamic stretches are performed prior to exercise:

  • Walking Lunge with Overhead Rotation
  • Lateral Lunge
  • Squats
  • Walking Russian Kicks
  • Arm Circles
  • Posterior Deltoids Stretch
  • Triceps Stretch

The following static stretches are performed after exercise:

  • Standing Calf Stretch
  • Hamstring Stretch
  • Ilio-Tibial Band Stretching
  • Standing Abductor Stretch
  • Posterior Hip Stretch
  • Low Lunge with Twist and Hip Flexor Stretch
  • Standing Extensions
  • Corner Stretch

It’s very easy to bypass stretching due to time constraints, but keep up with it.  The benefits of stretching are best when stretching is regular.  In some cases, you may need to approach stretching with caution. If you have a chronic condition or an injury, you may need to adjust your stretching techniques. For example, if you already have a strained muscle, stretching it may cause further harm.

Lastly, stretching does not mean you cannot get injured.   Overuse injuries may still occur.  If you are feeling pain or are injured, please contact AZOPT for your FREE injury and/or performance screen with a licensed physical therapist.