The #1 Stretch Older Adults Should Be Doing

By Brittany Risher |

It’s never too late—and always worth it—to improve flexibility. Start with standing cat-cow.

Being flexible isn’t about bending over to touch your toes or twisting your body into a pretzel.

“We all differ so much, so forcing yourself into a position can cause more harm than good,” says Terecita “Ti” Blair, the 2017 SilverSneakers Instructor of the Year. “Be at peace where you are.” And know that no matter what you think about your body and your abilities now, you can improve your flexibility.

“As we age, things start to slow down, we lose function, and we become fearful of movement,” Blair says. “Then we move less and stiffen more. But the body will listen to what you give it.”

If you want to give it something wonderful, follow the step-by-step guide below for standing cat-cow. This pose helps mobilize two parts of the body that tend to stiffen with age: the shoulders and hips. It also helps fix poor posture and relieves tension in the back of the body, where we tend to hold stress.

For best results, do this stretch at least once per day. 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 (including osteoporosis), an injury, or balance issues, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely.

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Step #1: Place Hands on Hips

Stand tall, place your hands on your hips, and draw your elbows behind you.

Step #2: Root Down Through Your Feet

Place your feet hip-distance apart, and find your grounding.

Step #3: Inhale and Lift Chest

Inhale, lifting your chest while moving your butt back. This is cow and helps stretch the muscles along the front of your chest.

Step #4: Exhale and Round

As you exhale, pull your belly in toward your spine, bending your knees and rounding your back as if rounding over a beach ball in front of you. If it’s comfortable, lower your chin toward your chest. This is cat. Alternate between cow and cat for three to five full breaths.

Step #5: Make It Your Own

For more sensation, extend your arms behind you as you inhale, and in front of you as you exhale and round. On the exhale, you can also grasp one wrist with the opposite hand to get more movement in your back.

Some people may find it more comfortable to inhale in cat pose and exhale in cow pose. Find what works for you.

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