Ladies and Gentlemen, I am hoping that you are staying well, and that you enjoyed Mother’s Day Celebrations and are looking forward to Father’s Day Celebrations. It’s so wonderful for families to gather again, inside and outside, for the most part without masks. I’m hoping that your life has returned to a more normal routine for daily living that includes walks in parks, rides in cars, and maybe even dancing. As summer approaches, I do hope that you are getting out and about, resuming your physical activities.
Over the last few months, I hope you been enjoying my Harmony Health Newsletters – reading about March’s What to Do after You Fall, and April’s Energy Conservation. On the Harmony Education Portal, which I hope you have visited, you learned about how quickly inactivity can lead to loss of Muscle Mass, viewed here, and the importance of exercise. Harmony’s How to Stay Fit and Healthy in Later Life, viewed here, emphasizes that everyone can benefit from staying active, finding an activity that you enjoy while helping you to exercise.
You may have experienced some stiffness, problems in limited flexibility, with reduced mobility and activities while spending more time at home to protect your health and well-being throughout the pandemic. Stiffness and limited flexibility increase your fall risks, getting up and down from bed or chair, performing activities of daily living, and walking with normal step length. So, I’d like to suggest that you integrate flexibility or stretching exercises into your daily routine. Stretching helps you to warm-up your muscles, tendons, and ligaments for the day. Ladies and gentlemen, these exercises are important exercises for your fitness. After more intense exercises, stretching also helps your muscles cool down. All-in-all, stretching to stay flexible is integral, a prescription to healthy aging.
In 2017, Lee, Jackson, & Richardson, published exercise prescriptions for primary care providers (PCCs) based on the United State Preventive Services Task Force evidence-based recommendations. These prescriptions also include behavioral counseling to promote healthy diet and physical activity, so that PCCs could better counsel older adults to increase physical activity, aligned to intensity levels of the exercises. Based on the evidence, consensus exists that flexibility or stretching exercises improve and maintain joint range of movement in older adults, and is categorized as light intensity exercises. Stretching hamstrings, calves and triceps (muscles at the back of your upper arm) are examples of such exercises. These exercises will improve joint range of motion after 3 or 4 weeks, but even greater gains if performed daily.
Last year, in April, I shared with you stretching exercises to help you with your posture. In this message, I am delighted to share with you exercises that focus more on stretching the muscles in your legs, hips, and back. These exercises are suggested from the Mayo Clinic. As always, if you have had recent joint injuries or surgery, consult with your physician before performing any exercises, that includes strengthening and flexibility exercises.
Mayo Clinic. Guide to Stretches
The Mayo Clinic has a slide show to help you stretch safely, that you can view here.
In getting started, they have safety tips to help you start your stretching program, which are warming up exercises. Each exercise has a picture and written instructions, including to hold times before switching sides of your body.
They offer a variety of very simple exercises that you could safely do by standing or lying down. First, you may want to view the exercises and instructions, and select 3 or 4 exercises to start with. I suggest that you can perform exercises in one position, and then switch to the other position. I am sharing a few of the exercises and grouping the exercises by the position to perform them.
- Calf muscles. While pressing your hands against a wall, or I like – holding on to the kitchen counter, stretch you’re the calf muscle of one leg and them switch.
- Thigh Muscles. Stretch your thigh muscles, by holding on to the wall or kitchen counter with one hand, hold a foot and bend or fold your leg back – folding at the knee.
- Neck Muscles. Stretch your neck by leaning your ear toward one shoulder then the next
- Shoulders. Stretch your shoulders by two different exercises – stretching each arm across your chest or to your back, holding onto a towel.
Lying Down (on the bed or floor) :
- Hamstrings. Stretch the muscles at the back of your leg, your hamstrings, lifting your leg straight up and stretching your leg towards your body.
- Low Back Muscles. Knee to chest exercises – you will bend you knee and with both hands gently hold your knee and pull your knee toward your chest.
The exercises completed while lying down are great to do in bed before getting out of bed. These exercises are to help you with flexibility.
All of my patients who came to my falls clinic, were always provided muscle stretching and strengthening exercises as essential fall prevention strategies.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Exercise is by far the most important factor for maintaining flexibility, strength, and activities of daily living. So many people have lost some endurance, flexibility and function. Knowing that exercise is the primary intervention, talk to your Harmony Team and primary provider about a possible referral to physical therapy for your specific prescribed exercise program.
I hope this message is helpful to you and provides easy strategies to promote your health and safety. If you have concerns, remember to talk to your Harmony Team. Open communication with your healthcare team as you restore your normal way of living, helps you to maximize your health and function, essential to reducing your fall risks.
Your Harmony Team is committed to reducing your fall risks, to help you prevent falls, and promote your function and independence.
Your Harmony Team is here to help you!
Thank you for reading this message.
Dr. Pat Quigley
Lee, P.G., Jackson, E.A., & Richardson, C.R. (2017). Exercise prescription in older adults. American Family Physician, 95(7) p. 426-432.
Mayo Clinic. Healthy Lifestyle. Guide to Stretches. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Available: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/multimedia/stretching/sls-20076840 Accessed May 7, 2022.