Power Your Walk Challenge: Stretch to Ease Achy Joints and Boost Mobility

By the Editors of SilverSneakers |

What you do before and after your walking workouts is critical for feeling your best. Use these 2 quick routines to ease stiff joints and prevent soreness.

Power Your Walk Challenge: Stretch to Ease Achy Joints and Boost Mobility

This is Step #3 in the 7-Day Power Your Walk Challenge. Find the full step-by-step guide here. And download the activity guide here. Enjoy your walk!

If you’ve ever joined us for a SilverSneakers cardio or strength-training class, you know that warming up — and then stretching after — can help you feel so much better during your activity. 

Walking as a workout is no different. 

“The difference between normal daily strolls and walking for exercise is that you’re using your muscles through a different length of motion,” explains Rachel Hunt, D.P.T., a physical therapist at React Physical Therapy in Chicago. 

Think about it: If your stride is opened, then your hips and ankles are working through a larger range. 

“You want to be sure your muscles have the flexibility and mobility to go through those movements properly,” says Hunt. 

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The Importance of a Warmup and Cooldown Routine

Dynamic warmups prime the muscles you’ll be using in your workout. While stretching post-activity is one of the best ways to improve flexibility and help your muscles recover quicker (aka less soreness and achiness). 

Your solution: Think of warming up and cooling down as a regular part of your routine, rather than an optional add-on. After all, they’re the bookends that make your workout complete. 

Below you’ll find two sequences recommended by Hunt and Sherri Betz, D.P.T., a physical therapist who specializes in working with older adults and director of TheraPilates® Physical Therapy in Louisiana. 

Together, these sequences prove that pre-workout and post-workout routines don’t have to be lengthy — or boring — to be effective. 

Good to know: Every SilverSneakers class includes warmup and cooldown moves that you can use to bookend your walking workouts! Find the latest SilverSneakers LIVE schedule and RSVP here.

How to Use These Mobility Moves and Stretches

You’ll just need yourself and a sturdy chair to get started. Some of the movements recommend standing near a support object for extra balance. This could be a wall, countertop, tree, or other sturdy object. 

We recommend using these two routines any time you to head out for a walk. But you can use them whenever you feel like giving your body some much-deserved TLC, too. 

The 5-Minute Pre-Workout Mobility Moves are exercises aimed at easing stiffness and preparing your body and joints for movement. 

You’ll notice that they are all dynamic, meaning you move through the range of motion rather than holding a stretch. This best prepares your muscles for action. 

The 6-Minute Post-Workout Stretch is where you can settle in and hold these feel-good stretches. 

These stretches increase flexibility in your major walking muscles to improve your form and help you feel better after hitting your stride. 

As always, safety is key. The exercises here may be different or more advanced than those you’ll experience in a SilverSneakers class. If you have a chronic condition, an injury, or balance issues, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely.

Want more feel-good moves to level-up your walking game? Check out our SilverSneakers Yoga class. This online or in-person class includes seated and standing poses and is appropriate for all fitness levels.

5-Minute Pre-Workout Mobility Moves

Aim to do each movement for 8 repetitions before you head out on your walk.

Exercise #1: Forward Shoulder Rolls 

  1. Stand or sit tall with your arms by your sides.
  2. Roll your shoulders forward, up, back, and down as smoothly as possible. 

Exercise #2: Neck Rolls

  1. Stand or sit tall.
  2. Keep your shoulders away from your ears as you bring your chin toward your chest.
  3. From here, roll your head slowly to one side until your ears are over your shoulder.
  4. Pause here and then slowly roll your head back down past your starting point and over to the other side, until your ears are over your opposite shoulder.

Exercise #3: Back Extensions

  1. Sit tall in your chair and place a rolled-up towel, small pillow or exercise ball as high as you can behind your back. (Make sure it’s above your lower back.)
  2. Place your hands behind your neck, at the base of your skull, and keep your elbows pointed forward slightly.
  3. Start with a neutral spine where your shoulders are over your hips.
  4. Inhale and extend back over the towel slightly.
  5. Exhale to return to your upright posture.

Exercise #4: Trunk Twists

  1. Sit or stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent.
  2. Roll your shoulders back and down and bring your belly button toward your spine to engage your core.
  3. Stretch your arms straight out to your sides, hands level with your shoulders in a “T” position.
  4. Lifting your head and spine toward the ceiling, slowly rotate your torso to the right as far as is comfortable, twist back to center, and then rotate to the left. 

Note: Twisting exercises may not be safe for those with osteoporosis; check with your doctor. It’s OK to skip this move or replace it with a seated side bend, shown here.

Exercise #5: Seated Toe Raises

  1. Sit tall in your chair with your feet flat on the floor and your heels under your knees.
  2. From here, keep your heels on the floor as you raise your toes up as far as you can. You’ll feel this in your shin muscle.

Exercise #6: Seated Heel Raises

  1. Sit tall in your chair with your feet flat on the floor and your heels under your knees.
  2. From here, keep your toes on the floor as you raise your heels up as far as you can. You’ll feel this in your calf muscle.

Exercise #7: Marches (Standing or Sitting) 

  1. Sit or stand tall with your shoulders back, core engaged, and your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Bend your arms so that your elbow is at a 90° angle.
  3. From here, march in place, bringing your knees up toward the ceiling as high as you comfortably can.
  4. Don’t forget your strong walking arms: As you raise your knee, bring the opposite arm forward, and repeat.
  5. Marching with your left, and then your right foot, counts as one rep.

Exercise #8: Forward Rocks

  1. Stand tall with your shoulders back, core engaged and your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Bend your arms at a 90° angle or place your hands on a support object, if you need.
  3. From here, step forward with your left leg, landing on your heel and pressing through to the ball of your foot.
  4. As you “rock” forward on your left foot, you’ll raise your right heel off the floor.
  5. See if you can feel a slight stretch in your right hip. If not, then take a slightly larger step forward.
  6. Pause here, and then rock your left foot back to your starting point and repeat on the other side.

For another effective warmup routine, watch the “5 Move Shakeout” here .

6-Minute Post-Workout Stretch

Aim to hold each stretch for 60 seconds after a walk.

Stretch #1: Calf Stretch

  1. Stand about arm’s length away from a countertop, wall, or tree. 
  2. Extend your left leg straight behind you with your heel on the ground. 
  3. Keep a slight behind in your right leg in front. 
  4. With your hands on the support object, lean forward slightly to feel a stretch in your left calf. 
  5. Hold here, and then repeat on the other side.

Press play to watch three variations of this calf stretch: 

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Stretch #2: Hamstring Stretch

  1. Sit or stand tall, and shift your weight to your right leg. 
  2. Extend your left leg in front of you with your toes up and your heel on the ground. 
  3. Keep a slight bend in your right knee, and place your hands on your right thigh or your hips. 
  4. From here, keep your chest lifted as you hinge forward slightly at your hips to feel a stretch in the back of your left thigh. 
  5. Hold here, and then repeat on the other side.

Stretch #3: Quadriceps Stretch 

  1. Stand near a chair, wall, or tree. 
  2. With your right hand on a support object, grasp your left foot with your left hand and bring your heel toward your glutes. 
  3. Keep your left knee pointing down. 
  4. You should feel the stretch in the front of your left thigh.
  5. Hold here, and then repeat on the other side.

Make it easier: If you have trouble reaching your foot, loop a hand towel around your ankle to hold on to as you stretch. 

You can also stand in front of a chair and place your foot on the seat to feel a stretch in the front of your leg.

Stretch #4: Figure 4 Seated Stretch

  1. Sit tall in a sturdy chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Cross your left ankle over your right thigh. (Be sure it’s on your thigh and not your knee.) 
  3. Gently press your left knee down toward the floor, allowing your torso to lean forward slightly as you do. 
  4. You should feel a stretch in your left hip and glute. 
  5. Keep your chest lifted. 
  6. Hold here for a few seconds, and then repeat on the other side.

Make it harder: Perform this stretch from a standing position, using a wall, countertop, or tree for support.

Stretch #5: Hip Flexor Stretch

  1. Stand near a support object with your chest lifted and your feet hip-width apart. 
  2. Keeping a slight bend in both knees and a hand on your support object or hips, extend your left leg back and place the ball of the foot on the floor. 
  3. Gently press down through your left foot and squeeze your left glute to feel the stretch in the front of the left thigh. 
  4. If you feel stable, reach your left hand up and overhead. 
  5. Hold here, and then repeat on the other side.

Make it easier: Perform this stretch with your right glute on a seat, and your left glute off. Place your right hand on the seat or arm rests for support. While keeping your chest lifted, extend your left hip and leg back to feel the stretch.

Make it harder: Instead of reaching your left hand up, keep your hands on your thighs and twist your torso to the right. You’ll not only stretch your hips, but your back, too.

Stretch #6: Seated Child’s Pose

  1. Sit in a chair about an arm’s length away from a table. 
  2. Sit back in your seat and stretch your arms out straight so that they are resting on the table. 
  3. Allow your head to hang freely off the table. 
  4. You should feel the stretch in your shoulders and chest. If comfortable, rock gently from side to side.
  5. Hold here.

Make it harder: Perform this stretch standing using a countertop or high seat.

Here are the other steps in the 7-Day Power Your Walk Challenge:

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