Celebrity trainer and former international athlete, Joey Bull, shares the best exercises and stretches for women who are looking to improve their flexibility in their 40s, 50s and beyond…
Words: Joey Bull | Lead image: Shutterstock | Workout images: from Joey’s course ‘The Best Is Yet To Come’
During your 20s, you may have been able to get away with a less than wonderful diet. And you may also have had more energy and were
naturally fitter. But as you move forward in life, even if you’re doing what you can to stay fit and supple, you may have less energy than you
once did and more rigidity. Patterns of movement develop over years, with some patterns strengthening while others get weaker.
But the good news is you needn’t seize up as you get older. You can reinvigorate dormant brain connections and underused muscles to reclaim more youthful movement. Re-educating your body by increasing neural plasticity is key. The following stretches and exercises are designed for women over 40, to improve your flexibility, increase agility and regain your co-ordination to keep you feeling energised and more fluid in your movements as the years pass.
Without further ado, here are the best stretches for women over 40 who are looking to improve their flexibility…
9 best stretches for women over 40 to improve their flexibility
Top tip: Perform the following flexibility stretches outdoors, if you can, as this helps body-brain integration and helps reset your saccadic rhythm, which is to do with your eyes (see visual exercise for explanation).
Sitting on your haunches
- Take your feet wide, then sit down as low as you can.
- If that feels restricted, raising your heels with a rolled-up mat beneath may help.
- Hold for five secs, then come back up.
- Do 10 reps.
BENEFITS: This movement increases knee, hip and ankle mobility. If you need the mat to raise up your heels, it means that your calves are
tight and need stretching. If it’s still difficult to get low, your hips need better mobility – the other exercises here can help with that.
- Hold a stick or broom handle against your collar bone, with hands crossed over one another.
- With feet hip-distance apart, sink into the right hip and bend the left knee.
- Allow your body to bend to the side towards the bent knee, making a C-shape in the mid-section with the stick pointing up and down.
- Feel the separation between ribs and hip and around the sides of the back. This is also good loosening move for golfers.
- Slowly sway from side-to-side about eight times.
BENEFITS: This exercise takes the rigidity out of your waistline, helping make it easier to rotate and reach back behind you.
- Sit on the floor with your heels dug in and toes up.
- With knees and feet the same distance apart, keep the right knee still and ease the left knee inwards, aiming to touch the ground.
- Keep both buttocks in contact with the ground.
- Bring the left knee back up and switch to the right leg. Repeat 10 times.
BENEFITS: This move release tightness in your hips to increase mobility. If you feel very stiff, repeat the exercise daily.
When your visual system is healthy and ‘flexible’, your body and brain are more flexible and adaptable, which is important for health and youth. This is best watched by someone else so they can check your saccadic movement (saccadic eye movements are the rapid eye movements left and right, up and down, that abruptly change your visual focus, flicking from one stationary position to another. When you read, for example, you perform many saccadic movements).
- Find an online metronome and set it to 100.
- Hold two pencils 20cm in front of you and 20cm apart.
- Start the metronome. Head facing forwards, look left and right with your eyes only, keeping your head still and staying with the beat.
- If that feels manageable, turn up the speed of the metronome another 10 beats and keep looking left and right.
- Continue speeding up the beat until it gets too fast to keep up. Note where you got to.
- Do this for a minute or two. See if you can keep the beat for longer next time. Practise regularly.
BENEFITS: Excellent for aiding neurological function, this technique is used as a detector for Alzheimer’s disease. Work on it daily to improve your accuracy.
- On all-fours, place your hands in front of you, with your arms straight and your backside in the air. Slide your hands forward and backwards, slowly.
- Feel the stretch under the armpit and down your side where the bra strap goes. Keep the head facing the ground.
- As you slide backwards, you should feel your mid-section stretching nicely as well.
- If it feels too tight on your shoulder, reduce the distance of the slide.
- Repeat six to eight times.
BENEFITS: Stretching your latissimus dorsi muscles (the large v-shaped muscles on your back) will help with your range of movement,
such as reaching upwards and stretching sideways. It’s perfect for any women over 40 who are looking to improve their back flexibility.
- Stand on one leg (or both if balance is an issue), bring your hands in front of your chest like you’re holding an imaginary ball. Lift both diagonally up to the right to start making an infinity sign – like an eight on it’s side. The hands will cross up in front of you.
- Keep looking forward and to 6-8 full infinity signs.
- Now, do some more infinity signs this time following your hands with your eyes, which makes it more difficult. Challenge yourself with this and keep trying with it!
BENEFITS: This helps you feel more co-ordinated by integrating your left and right brain, and is especially beneficial if you sit behind a screen all day.
- On all-fours with a wall or sofa behind you, position your right knee slightly behind your left and raise your foot onto the wall.
- Check the ball of your foot is against the wall. Slide your left leg forward and put your left foot on the ground in front of you, as if in
the ‘proposal position’.
- Bring your torso upright. Position your ear over your shoulder, your shoulder over the hip and tuck your tail under.
- You should feel a significant pull in your front thigh. If not, tuck your sacrum under a little more. If there is too much pull, shift the knee forward a bit (the one you’re stretching).
- Hold each side for 30 seconds.
BENEFITS: This improves posture and eases lower back pain by stretching your quadriceps muscle to influence the positioning of your pelvis.
- Sit on the floor, with your legs at a 90-degree angle in the knees and hips. Sit upright with your hands down for support.
- Slightly lift one foot, without compromising your upright posture. Do this five times.
- Switch sides and note which side is most responsive.
- Go back to the other side and now lift the knee off the ground, too. Then switch sides.
- Don’t worry if you get a bit of cramp. But take it slowly and gently.
BENEFITS: This exercise is for women over 40 who are looking to improve flexibility and mobility in the hips and strength in the torso.
- Lie on your back with one leg bent, foot on the ground.
- Hold the other leg in the air. Use a towel or band to reach it if you have flexibility issues.
- With the elevated leg perfectly straight, roll the ankle and foot round anticlockwise five times, then clockwise.
- Keep your leg as straight as possible. Expect to feel tension in the back of the thigh or the calf. Change sides and repeat.
BENEFITS: This exercise will help your sciatic nerve if you have discomfort down the back of your leg and across your bottom
Joey’s 14-day online course ‘The Best Is Yet To Come’ is designed for women in their 40s and beyond. It includes eight days of exercises to feel more agile, stronger and in better shape. Six days of information videos and audios help you identify your imbalances and solve them. You get a personal check-in and check-out with Joey, organic supplements, an exercise band and more. Visit joeybull.com or Instagram.com/joeybull_fitness.