Easy Neck Exercise For Seniors

Your head weighs about 10 pounds. If you spend a lot of time leaning forward over a computer, a counter, or a workbench, or stooping over, gravity will gradually take its toll on your neck. The back of your neck will grow elongated and fatigued as it struggles along with your shoulders to pull your head back over your spinal support column. Meanwhile the front of your throat and upper chest will shorten and tighten from continual contraction. This will promote tension in not only your neck but also your face, throat, chest, and shoulders, restricting your breathing, digestion, and the circulation between your head and torso. The tension will echo down your body as your middle and lower spine strain to compensate for the imbalance in your upper spine.

This underscores the importance of neck exercises. Fortunately neck exercises are some of the easiest exercises to do.

When doing neck exercises, it’s important to also pay attention to posture and ergonomics. If your neck is placed in an awkward position continually all day, exercises will only offset the damage, not prevent or fix it. To maximize the effectiveness of neck exercises, pay attention to the placement of your head over your spine during the day as you sit, stand, walk, lie down, and perform routine activities. If you find your head is often drooping forward, notice this and practice making adjustments to line your head back up with your spine. Notice which muscles get tired when you do this and where you need to stretch and strengthen your body in order to keep your head in optimal position.

Here is an easy, relaxing neck stretching exercise routine almost anyone can do. You can practice this every day if you want, or every couple or few days is also okay:

+ Chin Tucks: Push your chin forward. Then tuck it in. Repeat up to 10 times.

+ Forward Head Tilts: Tilt your head forward from the base of the neck. Then tilt backward, being careful not to look so far back you lose your balance. Repeat up to 10 times.

+ Side Head Tilts: Tilt your head from side to side as if you were resting your ear on a pillow on your shoulder. Repeat up to 10 times.

+ Diagonal Head Tilts: Tilt your head diagonally from the front of one shoulder to the back of the other. Repeat up to 10 times on each side of your body.

+ Head Turns: Turn your head from side to side looking to your sides. Repeat up to 10 times.

This routine will build flexibility in your neck. To build strength, practice this routine one or more times a week:

+ Lie on your back and lift your head up to look towards your toes, without lifting your shoulders or using your stomach more than necessary. Hold up to 10-15 seconds.

+ Turn over on your stomach and lift your head up looking straight ahead, without using your shoulders or lower back more than necessary. Hold 10-15 seconds.

Do this regularly and you will not only gain flexibility and strength in your neck, but awareness of how your head affects your balance. You may find the stretches also help with tension in the face and eyes and headaches.

Easy Exercise Starts By Using Your Head

Most exercise programs emphasize the abdominal muscles and other visibly obvious muscle groups. But did you know some of the most powerful muscles in the body are in the jaw and tongue? Jaw tension can play a major role in posture problems, shoulder stiffness, and breathing capacity. The jaw is also closely linked to the face muscles, which have a major influence over the emotions and the endocrine system. Tension in the tongue can promote posture problems in the neck-spine alignment and restrict breathing. When you consider all these things, you can see the logic of exercising the muscles in the head. Here are some simple ways to start incorporating these muscles into your workout routine:

+ Rub your hands together and tuck your fingers into loose fists to warm them, and when they are warm, give your scalp a brisk massage with your fingertips. Continue until you feel a sense of relaxation or warmth, or if you find this elusive, you may simply continue from about 20-30 seconds up to 1 minute. This relaxes the skin and muscles and stimulates the nerves in your head and neck.

+ From your scalp massage, continue wiping your palms across your forehead, down your cheeks, and over the sides of your ears. Again, continue until you feel a sense of relaxation or warmth, or up to 1 minute. This soothes muscles you use to move your eyes, mouth, and jaw.

+ Open your jaw as if yawning, then close your mouth and click your teeth together gently, with your tongue touching behind your upper teeth as if you were about to say a word starting with “d” or “t”. Repeat 10-30 times. This stretches your jaw and stimulates your ears.

+ Rub your hands together again to warm your hands, then cup your palms over your ears and use your fingers to lightly drum the base of your skull, listening to the echo. This relaxes the back of your neck and stimulates your ears.

+ Swish your tongue around your gums in circles until you feel your salivary glands activate, then swallow the accumulated fluid. As you swallow, stroke down the sides of your throat to your upper chest. Repeat 3 times. This relaxes your tongue and throat.

From here you can continue into neck and shoulder stretches if you wish. You will benefit from doing this routine once a day. You can do it up to three times a day if you want.

How To Make Exercise Easier For Seniors?

Seniors looking for an exercise program might feel discouraged that most aerobic and weightlifting programs on TV and DVD seem designed for professional models and athletes in their early 20s. Aerobic exercise can involve high impact on the joints, stress on the muscles, and strain on the lungs and heart, making this type of exercise too difficult and often inappropriate for many seniors. Likewise, weightlifting programs are often oriented towards bodybuilders who want to lift much heavier weights than most seniors are likely to encounter in the course of their day. Is there a way to make exercise easier for the average senior who just wants better fitness, more energy, and less pain, and isn’t trying to look like Superman or Wonder Woman?

Fortunately exercise can be adapted to overcome these obstacles and meet the needs of seniors. Here are some simple ways to make exercise easier:

+ Set training goals that are specific to your body, your daily needs, and your physical limits, not goals based on a fitness model’s physique. For instance your goal might be as simple as stretching and strengthening your lower back so you experience less discomfort sitting down and standing up, instead of trying to deadlift several hundred pounds like a bodybuilder.

+ Schedule your training time so that your workouts are short and your body has plenty of time to recover between workouts from any strain. Overdoing it and then skipping workouts because you’re sore accomplishes less than moderate, consistent progress.

+ Reduce your number of repetitions to the minimum necessary to attain your goals. Higher intensity is more essential for progress than sheer repetition, and beyond a certain number of repetitions there is a point of diminishing returns. With sufficient intensity you can experience gains from less than a dozen repetitions of a given movement. Even a single repetition can be beneficial if it is intense enough to adequately stimulate the muscle you are trying to stretch or strengthen. It is not necessary to repeat an exercise endlessly to achieve results.

+ Use breathing and stretching exercises to increase lung capacity and improve circulation. Breathing and stretching can improve cardiovascular efficiency without the high impact and overexertion associated with aerobics. For instance, just learning to keep your shoulders relaxed when you inhale can enable you to breathe more deeply and take in more oxygen.

+ Use body weight and everyday objects instead of heavy weights to increase strength. The weight of your own body and the objects you carry every day can be used to increase your strength even without weightlifting equipment. For instance, your head weighs about 10 pounds, and just lying on your stomach and holding your head off the ground will build the muscles you use to hold your head up, which will improve your posture.

+ Allow your body to grow at its own pace. Just as a tree grows gradually, your body has its own schedule that cannot be forced. Be patient with yourself, and don’t worry about trying to meet an artificial timetable. You’re not the person in the commercial trying to lose 10 pounds in 7 days to fit into a swimsuit for the beach! You’re trying to improve your health for the rest of your life.

Why Is Exercise So Easy For Children, and So Hard For Seniors?

Picture a child with boundless energy, running around from breakfast to bedtime, uncorralled like a wild horse. You don’t have to make children exercise: you couldn’t stop them from exercising if you tried!

Contrast this with the image of the average adult who can’t drag themselves to exercise 20 minutes every few days, even if their doctor has told them their life depends on it.

What changed? Why is exercise so easy for children, and so hard for seniors?

There are many reasons and many answers, but let’s talk about a few:

+ For children, exercise is a game. For adults, it is usually a chore.

+ For children, asking questions and learning answers is fun, and exercise is part of learning about their bodies and how they work. For adults, exercise is often more an act of imitation than it is an act of self-discovery. The joy of learning can become submerged under the frustration of being unable to follow along with the example of a younger, fitter model–trying to keep up with someone else’s body instead of learning about your own.

+ For children, exercise is part of learning to work with gravity and the forces around them: how to lift their head up, how to balance their head on their shoulders, how to balance on two legs, how to coordinate their arms and legs, how to fall down safely. For adults, these lessons have been forgotten in the wake of a lifelong battle against gravity that has taken its toll on posture, exacting its due in stress, aches, and pain.

+ For children, exercise comes easily as a natural byproduct of working with their bodies and the world around them. For adults, when the world is working against your body, exercise and movement become an uphill struggle.

There are other reasons and other answers, but what can we do about the ones we’ve already covered? Is there a way for adults and seniors to recapture the child’s enthusiasm for exercise and their enviable ease of motion?

Well, it can’t hurt to try. And a good place to start is by learning from the example of children:

+ Make exercise a game.

+ Ask questions about how your body moves.

+ Study and learn how your body works with gravity and other forces when you stand up, sit down, push, pull, lift.

+ Use what you learn so that when you move, it hurts less.

This is not something you will learn in one day, so I’m not going to go into much more detail in this blog post. But to give you something specific to apply this to:

Try spending one day playing with how the weight of your head affects the rest of your body.

+ If you tilt your head forward, how does it feel in your neck?

+ In your upper back?

+ In your lower back?

+ What if you tilt your head sideways?

+ Backwards? (Careful if you’re standing up!)

+ What if you turn?

As you do this, think of how long it takes an infant to learn just to raise its head, and to build up the muscles necessary to do this–which is a form of exercise!

And remind yourself that you’ve learned this before.

And that you can do it again.

Exercise can be easier than you think.