Exercises for the Elderly

Exercises for the Elderly

Today I have an excellent exercise for the elderly.

Once again, it is researched back.

Let’s go through it.

How Important is it for the Elderly to Stretch their Hip Flexors?

What They Looked At

In a ten-week supervised hip flexor stretching program for the frail elderly, they looked to see if the stretching program would improve:

  • hip extension
  • stride length
  • gait speed
  • reduced anterior pelvic tilt during comfortable and fast-paced walking

They had 74 frail elderly (65 and over) in the study, with 41 in the control group and 33 in the stretching group.

What They Did

They had the stretching group perform a hip flexor stretching program twice daily and weekly. A rehabilitation clinician supervised the program.

What Kind of Hip Flexor Stretch Did they Do?

They did a kneeling hip flexor stretch.

Highlights of the Study

The stretching group showed increases in:

  • walking speed
  • stride length
  • passive hip extension range of motion

After the stretching program, there were no significant changes in peak hip extension or anterior pelvic tilt during comfortable and fast-paced walking.

Last Word from Rick Kaselj <==  THE PART TO READ

This is essential information if you work with an older adult and need to improve gait function (walking).

This research shows that a kneeling hip flexor stretch can help do that.

Where to Get More Information

Watt JR, Jackson K, Franz JR, Dicharry J, Evans J, Kerrigan DC. (2011). Effect of a supervised hip flexor stretching program on gait in frail elderly patients. PM R. 2011 Apr;3(4):330-5.

As I was researching the Watt 2011 study, I came across some studies that build on hip flexor stretching in the elderly.

Christiansen CL. (2008). The effects of hip and ankle stretching on gait function of older people. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2008 Aug;89(8):1421-8.

Participants participated in an 8-week stretching program and had improvements in joint motion in the hip and the ankle.

Kerrigan DC, Xenopoulos-Oddsson A, Sullivan MJ, Lelas JJ, Riley PO. (2003). Effect of a hip flexor-stretching program on gait in the elderly. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2003 Jan;84(1):1-6.

Unfortunately, I was not able to get the Watt 2011 full-text journal, but I was able to get the Kerrigan 2003 full-text journal which is very similar to the Watt study.

In this study, they got one group to do a hip flexor stretch and a second group to do an arm cross shoulder stretch.

Each group did the stretch four times on each side, alternating and holding for 30 seconds for a total of 8 stretches. They did this twice a day for ten weeks.

In the journal, they had a photo of the Kneeling Hip Flexor stretch they got the participants to do:

It is not the prettiest kneeling hip flexor stretch I have seen, but it looks like it did the trick.

Another cool thing they had the participants do was a warm-up and a cool-down. I think this is not encouraged enough, and I wonder how much it helped with the results.


  • side stepping to the right and then the left, four times in each direction
  • walking forwards and backward with a clap after three steps, performing three sets
  • four sets of stepping on the spot with high knees

Cool Down

  • lifting both arms overhead while breathing in and then lowering the arms while breathing out
  • shaking out the arms and legs
  • performing wrist and ankle circles

The little warm-up and cool-down are simple, and nearly any elderly individual can perform them.

The Last Word from Rick

I know this stuff is obvious, but I find it is better when I have evidence backing what I do. I might have an opinion or have seen something on the internet, but I feel much more comfortable giving something to a client that has been backed by research. You may have been doing this already, but now you have some research backing what you are doing. If you work with health care professionals like doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors, massage therapists, or occupational therapists, they will like that you have some evidence backing what you do.

That is it.

Until the following article.

Thank you for reading, and have a great day.

Before I go, it would be great to get your tips and feedback on working with the elderly. Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Rick Kaselj, MS

Functional Strength for Seniors