My Itchy Travel Feet | The Baby Boomer's Guide To Travel

One Healthy Change a Month: Stretching

2013/02/05by Donna Hull

healthy-change-stretching

Try draping over a large exercise ball, face down, for a good back stretch.

I read an NPR article recently that says boomers are aging poorly when it comes to health issues. Well, that’s not going to be me—or you—if I have anything to say about it. How would you like to make one healthy change a month so that by the end of 2013 we’re more energized and fit travelers?

My back injury on our December 2012 AmaWaterways Christmas markets cruise was a big wakeup call. All of a sudden the need to be healthy so that I can travel was pushed right in front of my face. Although I live a fairly healthy lifestyle, the experience made me realize that I need to change my ways. So, I’m introducing a year-long series based on making one healthy change a month. Any health coach, doctor or other medical professional will tell you that making changes in small steps is the most effective way to achieve long lasting results. Let’s get started with February’s healthy change: stretching every day.

We all know that we need to stretch, but most of us associate it with preparing to exercise or something we do immediately after a workout. That’s not what I’m talking about. Stretching should be a part of our everyday routine just for the sake of stretching. Why?

According to an article at SparkPeople.com, “Without regular stretching, your muscles will tighten and the range of motion in your joints will decrease as you age. This can put a damper on active lifestyles and even hinder day-to-day activities.” As someone who has not stretched much in her life, I can attest to that. Remember the 30 miles of hiking on the Road Scholar Glacier National Park program that Alan and I did? I neglected to stretch before or after the hikes and by the end of the week, my muscles told me all about it.

But there are even more benefits from a daily stretch routine. According to health writer Sheryl Kraft at HealthyWomen.org, “Not only does stretching increase your flexibility and improve your circulation, it helps relieve stress, too.” Did someone say “relieve stress?” I’m all for that.

Several years ago, when I interviewed  fitness expert Nordine Zouareg about his book, Mind Over Body: The Key to Lasting Weight Loss Is All in Your Head, for Oro Valley Magazine (no longer in publication), he talked to me about stretching before getting out of bed. According to Nordine, our minds slowly wake up in the morning, drifting in and out of sleep before waking fully. Then, we get out of bed, our feet hit the floor and we expect our bodies to work immediately. Nordine says that we should be like a dog or cat and stretch slowly before getting up, giving our bodies time to become fully awake and catch up with our minds.

This video from Nivea shows you what I mean:

But we need to do more than that. Here’s a basic stretching routine from Sparkpeople.com. And if you click on the thumbnails, you’ll see a very easy to follow demonstration of each stretch.

Don’t leave your new-found flexibility at home. On a road trip, stop the car every 90 minutes for a 10-minute stretching session. If you’re on a cruise, check out the stretch classes, they’re available on most cruise lines. Air travelers, don’t forget these airplane yoga tips from CNN.

Would you like to take this challenge with me? Post a comment to commit to the challenge of stretching every day. For more ideas, join our One Healthy Change a Month Pinterest board (send me an email if you’d like to be a pinner). At the end of each month, we’ll discuss our progress at the My Itchy Travel Feet page on Facebook.

Now, here’s how you can help me. I don’t like to stretching because I’m not flexible and it’s boring.Holding stretches for 30 seconds is such a long time. Do you have any tips for making it more interesting?

Next month, we’ll tackle the challenge of losing 1lb-a-month and why it’s good for our travels.

It’s not too late to join our challenge. Click One Healthy Change a Month to read more.

I am not a medical professional. Before making changes to your health routine, consult your doctor to determine what is best for you.

I have included an Amazon Link to Mind Over Body: The Key To Lasting Weight Loss Is All In Your Head for your convenience. However My Itchy Travel Feet does receive a small percentage for purchases made at Amazon.com.


A boomer travel and lifestyle authority who is exploring the world one activity at a time. Besides writing and publishing My Itchy Travel Feet, she also writes about boomer travel for My Well-Being Powered by Humana, Make It Missoula and is the author of New Mexico Backroads Weekend Adventure.

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Jackie Smith
Twitter:
February 5, 2013 at 11:01 am

Donna, a great article and a reminder to us all of the importance of fitness. We try to hit the gym at least four times a week using the treadmill and eliptical (sp) machine. . .and we thank ourselves for doing so when we set out on our travels. Joel has just started a series of stretching exercises for core muscles (as his bad back sent him to phyiscal therapy after our return from Italy). He’s already noticed a difference. Since it appears I am the first to respond, I’ll take your stretching challenge. . .I may not make it every day but certainly will step up my efforts. (You might want to read our Diet to Go posts – they really did work and I continue to weigh far less than I did a couple year’s ago with out ‘dieting’.
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Donna Hull
Twitter:
February 5, 2013 at 7:51 pm

Stretching makes a huge difference with back issues, especially if you start them sooner rather than later. Thanks for joining the stretching challenge. Would you mind emailing a link to your Diet to Go posts? I might be able to link to them in a later part of our series.

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The Blonde February 5, 2013 at 12:15 pm

I’m in! I’ve worked out for years and just last week started to do the The Bar Method which has a stretch for each muscle after you’ve worked it. However, the stretches aren’t held long enough to do any good but I’ve been “counting” them anyway! Now I’ll commit to stretching for real on my own every day this month. Stretches are boring but can feel good too. Sometimes I do them when I’m “watching” the news or get one in while I’m waiting for something minor to complete – the kettle to boil, etc. I’m going to Canyon Ranch next week and hope they’ll have some good new ideas or techniques about stretching for me to incorporate.

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Donna Hull
Twitter:
February 5, 2013 at 7:49 pm

I’ve never heard of The Bar Method. I’ll have to Google that. Thanks for joining our stretching challenge and have fun at Canyon Ranch.

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sheryl February 5, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Great post, Donna. Thanks for the link – and thanks for the reminder! Even though I write about health, it’s tough to always take my own advice. How about stretching while listening to the news or to some music. That can make the time pass more quickly. Or, put your day’s to-do list together in your head. Combine stretching with kegels (something we all forget to do). Or just think about nothing; do a mini-meditation.
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Donna Hull
Twitter:
February 5, 2013 at 7:48 pm

Stretching with kegels is a great idea. Thanks, Sheryl.

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Suzi Rosenberg
Twitter:
February 5, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Hi Donna,
I’m an avid believer in the importance of stretching to relieve stress, to relieve muscle pain, and to maintain flexibility. In fact, up until about a year ago, I went through a stretch routine every night in front of my favorite television shows (or DVD, if nothing was on television – there’s your hint for making it more interesting, BTW). I’m not quite sure how I let it get away from me, but thanks for the reminder to get back to my stretches! Love your tips, hints and suggestions – I’m committed to staying the course with you! ;D
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Donna Hull
Twitter:
February 5, 2013 at 7:46 pm

Hi Suzie, thanks for joining us. I’m not much of a television watcher but I guess I will be for at least 30 minutes at night and in the morning. You see, I’m having to stretch twice a day as part of the recovery from back surgery. Glad you enjoyed the hints and tips.

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Vera Marie Badertscher
Twitter:
February 5, 2013 at 8:43 pm

You didn’t specify how long we have to spend stretching, so I guess that is individual. I’m definitely in. I am supposed to do neck stretches because I have reduced mobility in my neck. Fortunately, my dog Bogie reminds me of the importance of stretching every time he gets up after napping. (I swear he sleeps more than a cat!)
A wonderful yoga stretch I discovered really helps my back after sitting too long at the computer. It’s simple. Just like on the floor in front of a chair, with your legs up on the seat of the chair. Can you picture it? You’re making a stair-step of your body. (I put a small pillow under my head to relieve pressure on my neck.
As for the “boring” part, I find that my brain needs a rest, too, so I just let my mind wander–semi meditating.
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Vera Marie Badertscher
Twitter:
February 5, 2013 at 8:44 pm

No–don’t “like on the floor.” LIE on the floor!
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Donna Hull
Twitter:
February 8, 2013 at 6:52 pm

Thanks for the yoga stretch idea. Glad you are joining us. You are right, how long you stretch is up to you. But it needs to be a routine of a series of stretches, so I’m guessing 15 to 20 minutes at least. My brain needs a rest too, but I have a hard time making it stop.

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Jane Boursaw
Twitter:
February 5, 2013 at 8:52 pm

Thanks for the reminder about my exercise ball! I do love that thing and totally forget about it when it’s not in front of me every day. I love your “one health change per month” idea.
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Donna Hull
Twitter:
February 8, 2013 at 6:51 pm

Jane, the exercise ball is my favorite piece of exercise equipment. I can’t use it just yet but I’m looking forward to getting over the surgery and using it soon.

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Just One Boomer (Suzanne)
Twitter:
February 5, 2013 at 10:02 pm

I’m in. I need to recommit to exercise and I think daily stretching is probably especially important for writers. I also need to force myself to get outside more especially during the winter. I know it would help with SAD, but when afflicted with SAD, the motivation to get up and go is hard to come by.Thank goodness we have a dog who has to be walked. I do some stretching waiting for our slow service elevator to get to the 16th floor. We’re supposed to use the service elevator with the dog.
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Donna Hull
Twitter:
February 8, 2013 at 6:50 pm

Suzanne, you are right that writers need to stretch. Although I’ve been concentrating on lower body stretches, I need to make time for upper body ones. I don’t have a dog to force me to exercise but this little paper spelling out the walks and stretches I need to do each day is my motivation.

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Roxanne
Twitter:
February 6, 2013 at 8:38 am

I’ve been trying to do more yoga, both for physical health and stress relief. Years ago, I developed a little routine I called “Bathroom yoga,” where I incorporated various stretches while in the shower or while drying my hair, etc. I’m sure my yoga instructor would be mortified, but … you have to fit it in where you can.
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Donna Hull
Twitter:
February 8, 2013 at 6:49 pm

Your routine makes sense to me, Roxanne. I have two certain stretches that I’m supposed to do quite often during the day. I’ve been getting them in when I put on my shoes to go outside for the 4 walks a day that I’m required to take.

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santafetraveler February 6, 2013 at 9:05 am

This inspires me to get back to yoga. I used to do two classes a week and got out of the habit. Time to reestablish it. Thanks!

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Donna Hull
Twitter:
February 8, 2013 at 6:48 pm

Billie, I’ve never tried yoga but that’s on my list for 2013. I’ll probably have to learn via DVD since we live so far from town.

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Debbie Beardsley
Twitter:
February 6, 2013 at 1:28 pm

I’m in too! I’ve known for a long time about all the benefits of stretching, especially because I run 4 times a week, but I don’t do it! So I’ll join you in stretching. I’ll be stretching in front of the TV. It really can make the time pass quickly.
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Donna Hull
Twitter:
February 8, 2013 at 6:47 pm

Stretching in front of the TV is a good idea, Debbie. Thanks for joining us.

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Nancy D. Brown
Twitter:
February 6, 2013 at 5:09 pm

After my hip replacement, I am reminded each time I step away from the computer, the importance of stretching. Count me in.

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Donna Hull
Twitter:
February 8, 2013 at 6:46 pm

Nancy, I’m sure you’ve had your share of stretching while recovering from the hip replacement. Do you think it will set up a daily habit for you?

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Alexandra February 7, 2013 at 2:39 pm

I never think to stretch this morning. Thanks for this idea. Will try to make myself do it. The video was easy to watch. What a great idea for a regular feature! Thanks.
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Donna Hull
Twitter:
February 8, 2013 at 6:45 pm

Thanks, Alexandra. Good luck with your stretching.

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HeatherL
Twitter:
February 9, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Dogs make a good example of stretching. It’s something they do every time they get up and if we followed suit, we’d be more flexible.

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Paula February 10, 2013 at 8:14 am

I have a lot of weight to lose and it can be overwhelming – on top of how disappointed I am with myself for allowing this to happen. I want to be able to do the 30 miles at Glacier National but know that, right now, I could not do it. This week I re-committed to the Curves workout at least 4 days a week and to wearing a pedometer so that I can slowly increase the number of steps I take daily (went from 4500 to 5500 from last week to this week). I love the stretching challenge – thanks for adding another element in my effort to be healthier. I always loved the feel of my long, lean dancer muscles and an grateful that I have their underlying support.

Might I suggest that 15 sec into a 30 second static hold you release it just a touch and then press it in a bit closer while you exhale. There is something about exhaling that helps you relax your muscles so that you are not fighting against yourself. Blessings to you.

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