Active-Aging Stretches

by Christy Stevenson on May 01, 2012


Incorporate these four stretches into your cool-downs to keep participants looking and feeling younger.

People invest a lot of money in the search for eternal youth. But one of the most effective, inexpensive and pain-free ways to look and feel younger is to exercise and perform daily stretches that ward off kyphosis (rounding of the thoracic spine, resulting in a hunched shape); that keep the spine mobile; that lengthen the quadriceps to help sustain a tall, lifted posture; and that maintain a healthy range of motion in the hips.

Encourage participants to shift their focus from “anti-aging” to “pro-aging” with stretches that support an active body over a lifetime.

Stability Ball Chest Opener

Sit on stability ball of appropriate size, feet planted on floor a little wider than hip width apart. Slowly roll down onto back while walking feet forward. (Participants who lack core strength may anchor their feet, toes touching wall.) Ball fully supports spine. Open arms straight out to sides, palms up. Allow back of head to rest on ball, and draw chin up slightly toward ceiling. Drop hips, allowing low back to round naturally against ball, or keep legs and glutes engaged to lightly lift hips. Inhale and exhale fully while holding the stretch, softening shoulder blades into ball.

Spinal Twist

Lie supine on mat and hug knees to chest. Next, take arms out to sides, palms up, shoulders anchored to mat. Slowly drop knees toward right side as head turns left. Release trunk rotators as legs sink toward floor. Actively press shoulders down; hold and breathe.

Extend both legs straight out to side to intensify this stretch, lengthening hamstrings as spine continues to twist gently. After 10–30 seconds, activate core muscles to return to start position. Return to neutral spine and then stretch to opposite side.

Quad Wall Stretch

Position mat flush to flat, smooth wall. Carefully place right knee on floor against wall, shinbone perpendicular to floor, toes pointed. Bring left foot forward to create 90-degree bend in left knee, making sure knee stays behind toes, as if in lunge. Right shinbone is just outside of right thighbone as you press hands into left thigh and rise to tall, one-legged kneeling position. Use core muscles to draw rib cage back toward wall and up over hips. (This stretch is deep; participants who struggle should do standing quad stretch instead.) Breathe deeply and hold for 10–30 seconds; then switch sides.

Seated Hip Opener

This final stretch can prove challenging for people of all fitness levels. Sit cross-legged, then gently take right lower leg and try to pull right ankle/foot toward left knee. Breathe deeply and press right knee downward toward left ankle/foot. Activate inner and outer thighs to press both knees closer to mat. (Participants with tight hips can sit on step or yoga block. Those with mobile hips can reach forward and down with arms and chest.) Hold for 10–30 seconds, breathing fully, and gently switch sides.

IDEA Fitness Journal , Volume 9, Issue 5

© 2012 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

About the Author

Christy Stevenson

Christy Stevenson IDEA Author/Presenter

Christy Stevenson, FiTOUR ProTrainer and author of Get on the Ball—A Swiss Ball Workout (, has been teaching group fitness classes for over a decade, and has certified with ...


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  • Christy Stevenson

    Carla & Ellen, you are both correct. Due to space constraints, I couldn't list all the contraindications, but definitely modify these stretches for any participants who suffer from knee and/or hip issues!
    Commented Jan 04, 2013
  • Ellen Coven

    both the quad wall stretch and the seated hip opener are advanced exercises and are probably not appropriate for older adults. They both create undo stress for the knee joints. There are better and safer choices.
    Commented Dec 19, 2012
  • Carla Kilian

    Great article on stretching. I'd just add that caution should be used on the Quad Wall Stretch as it puts strain on the knee joint.
    Commented Oct 24, 2012