Stretching and Balance Exercises

Stretching

Stretching exercises help keep your joints flexible, prevent stiffness, and may help reduce your chance of injury during other activities. Gentle stretching for 5 to 10 minutes also helps your body warm up and get ready for aerobic activities such as walking or swimming, but some people find it easier to stretch after their activity ends (and that is fine, too).

Some activities that count as flexibility exercises include:

  • Basic (static) stretches
  • Dynamic stretching (such as high knees or back kicks)
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Tai chi

It is important to make sure you are doing basic stretching exercises correctly. Stretching should feel mild and relaxing. It should never feel uncomfortable or painful.

Follow the pointers below when stretching or doing any flexibility exercises.

Do

  • Relax as you stretch
  • Stretch only to the point that you feel mild tension
  • Hold a steady stretch for 5-15 seconds
  • For dynamic stretches, keep your movements fluid
  • Breathe deeply and slowly as you stretch
  • Keep it comfortable
  • Ease off the stretch if you feel discomfort

Don’t

  • Bounce or bob as you stretch
  • Focus on tension-creating thoughts
  • Hold your breath
  • Strain or push to the point of pain

*Adapted from I Hate to Exercise, 2nd edition, by Charlotte Hayes, MMSc, MS, RD, CDE. ©American Diabetes Association.

Balance Exercises

Building balance helps you stay steady on your feet and can reduce your risk for falling and injuring yourself. Balance exercises are especially important for older adults to incorporate into their exercise routine. Examples of balance exercises include: 

  • Walking backwards or sideways
  • Walking heel to toe in a straight line
  • Standing on one leg at a time
  • Standing from a sitting position
  • Both lower body and core muscle strength training also help improve balance.
  • Last Reviewed: December 16, 2013
  • Last Edited: March 18, 2014

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