stretching recommendations
July 6, 2010 5:30 PM   Subscribe

I'm getting older and creakier. Please recommend a good book or DVD or gentle program to help me limber up and not be so stiff, achy and tight.

I'm almost 50! If I bend down to touch the floor, I can reach to the middle of my shins and that's it. Yeah, that's pathetic. My low back always aches, I'm stiff and tight all over and losing any elasticity and limber-ness I ever had. I don't recommend getting older. Avoid it.

I need a gentle stretching or yoga book or DVD, but dudes and dudettes---please do not recommend any stuff that requires me to twist into a pretzel nor any high impact, heavy workout stuff. Think of me as old and tired and creaky (although I am not overweight). I prefer to work exercise/stretch at home.
I have access to a Swiss ball and a foam roller if they will help.
Kind regards to you all. . . .
posted by luvmywife to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
I highly, highly recommend pilates, but you really need to go to a class (preferably a small one) for a while to make sure you're doing it right, because there's a lot of different things that, if you get it right, make a big difference. Once you know what you're doing, you can find a DVD and do it from home.
posted by brainmouse at 5:33 PM on July 6, 2010

I was going to say the same thing as brainmouse, but for yoga. Our healtplex (a gym associated with a hospital) has a great yoga class twice a week that's designed as "slow yoga" - small class, people of all types (men, women, teenagers through very-senior citizens) at all levels. The teacher is great about helping beginners really "get it". Check out your community centers, yoga studios, and YMCA for something similar, invest in a round of classes, then get a DVD if you don't want to keep up the classes.
posted by dpx.mfx at 5:39 PM on July 6, 2010

I second the yoga (much more so than pilates, which I also do - I just think yoga will better help you reach your goals). You can get some dvds from your library, I'm sure - but brainmouse and dpx.mfx are both correct in saying that you should start with a class first. No point hurting yourself, or doing your practice a disservice by poor posing.
posted by backwards guitar at 5:42 PM on July 6, 2010

Tai chi might also be something to consider.
posted by aniola at 5:54 PM on July 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Try out both yoga and pilates - most places offering classes will offer a free class for people trying to decide whether to sign up or not. Some Y's offer classes specifically aimed at improving flexibility in older folks, which combine elements from both yoga and pilates. I wouldn't recommend committing to a full round of classes until you've tried different exercises and see what clicks with you. I've tried both yoga and pilates and for me pilates works better; there's something about yoga (and I've given it several tries over the years) that doesn't agree with my body. At my last attempt with yoga I managed to mess up my back even under close supervision of the instructor. I haven't experienced any such issues with pilates.

Unless you have previous experience with stretching, such as through dance training, I wouldn't recommend starting out from a book. I think it's too easy to hurt yourself or do the stretches wrong by not knowing how they're supposed to feel. So as others recommend, start with a class, then expand your repertoire of stretches by getting a DVD or book.
posted by needled at 6:27 PM on July 6, 2010

I discovered callanetics through metafilter last year. Get the old videos, if you can. They're deliciously cheesy, but feel pretty good, and the basic movements are very easy (although you'll be sore for the first few days).
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:30 PM on July 6, 2010

Take a look at Getting in Shape. It's an inexpensive book of exercises to keep yourself in working order. You can start from any fitness level or situation, like for older people, people in poor shape, people in good shape, etc. It has clear, easy pictures, and the exercises don't require special equipment. The exercises, depending on what is to be done, also include appropriate pre-exercise stretching and warmup. The print is large and the book stays open when you lay it flat.
posted by Katravax at 6:39 PM on July 6, 2010

Swimming should help too.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:51 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm 52. A few years ago I was chugging down 6 or 8 advil a day. It seemed like something always hurt. I got a gym membership and really started working out; I try to go 5 days a week for 1 1/2 hour work out of cardio/fat burning/weightlifting. One yoga class a week. I also reduced my sugar and flour intake to nearly zero levels. Plus I started drinking more water and less tea and coffee. Plus I added a vitamin pill and fish oil tablet a day. I feel fantastic. I don't remember the last time I needed an advil and I have tons of energy. I figure my goal is to enter old age with the best bone density and the most muscle mass and the most flexable joints possible.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:58 PM on July 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Okay, I'm older than you but other than that, I am you, except that I work out five (or more) days a week. In fact, I posted a very similar question not too long ago. But what resonated with me was your comment about lower back pain. If you love yourself, hell even if you kinda sorta like yourself, by all means introduce yourself to the McKenzie method. I started doing the exercises, half-assed at the beginning, and they made the most amazing difference. No more lower back pain, no more stiffness, and I'm as flexible as I was in high school.
posted by DrGail at 7:22 PM on July 6, 2010

I used yoga for inflexible people by bodywisdom media media to get into yoga. When I finally found a class, my instructor did not make too many corrections to my form, so I guess the DVDs are good. I got more flexible at least.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:03 PM on July 6, 2010

As aniola saya, you might find tai chi useful. I'm fifteen years older than you, beginning to creak, and recently tried tai chi. Its gentle flowing movements were very restorative, gaving my body something it needed, and renewing my balance and posture. Unfortunately I had to stop after a few months, but if you can find a good teacher it's wonderful.
posted by anadem at 9:32 PM on July 6, 2010

Cringe-worthy website, but highly recommended. You should be warmed up and sweating freely before trying any of these things. And don't stretch right before bed. The earlier in the day, the better. And the healthier you eat, the looser you'll be. If you eat healthier and get stiffer, than you may have a food intolerance, perhaps to salicylates or nightshades.
posted by zeek321 at 4:20 AM on July 7, 2010

A.M. and P.M. Yoga

Very simple routines you can do over and over again that feel amazing.

You can do any more advanced yoga dvd too if you just sit calmly or do whatever comes naturally while the bendy person on screen does the pretzel thing. The good instructors will tell you that.
posted by callmejay at 8:18 AM on July 7, 2010

I've done Callanetics for years (very low impact, can do at home, great results). Also I discovered hot yoga this past winter (Moksha style, which is mellower and, I find, much more approachable than Bikram). The hot yoga makes me feel so centered, limber, and refreshed afterward - it's fantastic to do in the winter when I feel cold and gray and down, like a long soak in a hot tub.
posted by flex at 7:21 AM on July 8, 2010

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