Can you touch your toes?

Or stand on one foot for 30 seconds?

If you can’t, you’re not alone. But balance and flexibility are among the key facets of physical fitness. And just like cardiovascular endurance and strength, they diminish with age unless we work on them.

Working on balance and flexibility helps prevent falls, which can be disastrous later in life. And just like it’s never too late to start working on them, it’s also never too soon. Anyone engaged in fitness should include stretching in his or her routine, whether beginning or experienced.

There’s a reason people have always talked about being “strong enough to bend,” you know.

Plus, stretching feels good. It lowers stress, and improves posture and circulation. It helps us perform everyday activities, like bending over and turning our heads. You can work on it everyday around the house and at work.

Talk to us if you have any questions, and check our schedule of classes to see what might be right for you. Here are some of the offerings that are popular among active adults. They are safe, low impact and require mindfulness, in the best sense.

Yoga

Almost 40 million Americans enjoy yoga’s health benefits, according to the 2016 Yoga in America Study.

About one-fifth are in their 50s, and another one-fifth are over 60.

Yoga is great for balance, strength and bone density. It helps with back pain, blood pressure and anxiety. The focus on breathing is simple and profoundly beneficial for the mind, body and spirit. You don’t need any special equipment, and you can do it anywhere, although we recommend a few classes, at least, to start with.

And, super-important for people over 50: Yoga is highly adaptable to everyone’s physical needs and limitations. Let your instructor know about any aches, arthritis, surgeries, etc. – and he or she will guide you to a modification.

Pilates

Pilates focuses on the core muscles. It is somewhat similar to yoga, but it foregoes the meditative or metaphysical aspects. It provides a safe, low-impact workout that involves working on a mat on the floor (along with some minor props that are furnished in class).

Also like yoga, Pilates generally moves at a gentle, deliberate pace and focuses on proper form and breathing. And it can build strength, reduce back pain, and improve posture, coordination and balance.

Pilates focuses on building strength in the core muscles, or the “powerhouse” of the legs, abdominals, arms, hips and back.

It was created by Joseph Pilates, a circus performer and boxer, while he was in a World War I internment camp. He practiced it into his 80s.

Tai chi

The slow, gentle movements of tai chi (pronounced TIE CHEE) have been practiced in China for thousands of years, and today by millions of people around the world.

The ancient martial art is sometimes called “meditation in motion.” And remembering the steps and their sequence is good for brain health and focus.

Studies show tai chi helps people with arthritis and Parkinson’s disease, as well as stress management, muscle tone, lower blood pressure and other aspects of good health. It has become somewhat trendy for medical and fitness providers who serve people over 50.

It’s also one of the best things we can do to improve our balance while standing still and also while moving. In other words, tai chi is great for preventing falls.

General tips for stretching

Falls are the leading cause of death from injury for people over 65, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One in three adults falls each year. Thousands of Americans die, and millions are hurt.

Whether here or at home with a book or video, please stretch – at least 15 minutes a day, three times a week. For a nice introduction to some basic movements, check out this from the National Institute on Aging.

Remember, also:

• Before any stretching, take a 5-minute walk to warm up.

• Keep breathing while you stretch.

• Give time to your calves, front and back thighs, hips, lower and upper back, chest, shoulders and neck. If you’ve had surgery, talk to your doctor first.