By Matt Evans
If there's one tip to staying active as you get older, it's to stretch. Many people simply don't take the time to stretch for even a few minutes every day, which is a shame: if we go from an office chair to our car to our sofa, our range of motion decreases and we'll suffer in our old age.
Even if you're already an active, healthy adult or dedicated gym bunny, a daily stretching routine can increase your range of motion, reduce your risk of injuries and decrease soreness in your muscles. Our guide to stretching exercises is a good place to get started, but there's one very simple – but not necessarily easy – thing you can do right now. Try touching your toes.
At least, that's the recommendation from Hollywood superstar Helen Mirren. From turns in The Queen to action franchises like Red and Fast & Furious, It's well-known Helen has long made use of the XBX workout plan, a series of 12 simple calisthenics exercises created by the Canadian Air Force, in order to get fit in preparation for her roles, and it's a practice she still uses.
In an interview with Good Morning Britain, Helen speaks out about her regime and the flexibility it provides:
Interviewer: Is it true that you keep fit with the RCAF exercises?
HM: I do, that’s true, not that I keep fit. But if I do decide “It’s time, you’ve got to start again” I do those. It’s very simple - five days a week, for two weeks, and you feel very different. The first exercise is touching your toes, which is very easy - no, not bending your knees, keep your knees straight. You should be able to place your hands flat on the ground. Five times a day, start with that.
And then, of course, Helen proceeds to show off great flexibility for any age, never mind 73, and place her palms flat on the floor with two straight legs. Check it out below:
Watch Helen Mirren demonstrate great flexibility here:
Mirren's great flexibility is testament to the effectiveness of her workout plan. As we get older, our muscles shorten, limiting our range of motion. We've all seem elderly people shuffle along with very limited motion, bent double. Regular stretching helps keep those muscles long, actively fighting against the process of aging. It also reduces acute inflammation in our bodies according to science, helping us live longer.
Mirren recommends touching your toes (or getting as far down as you can) five times a day, eventually working your way to placing your palms flat on the floor. However, if you're looking for more structured flexibility exercises, yoga is great for anyone looking to get into stretching.
Combining core exercise, stretching and meditation, it's perfect for reducing the production of a hormone called cortisol. Known as the "stress hormone", cortisol induces feelings of fight-or-flight panic in addition to encouraging our bodies to cling onto fat. Yoga not only lengthens our muscles, but regular yoga practice reduces the production of cortisol as effectively as anti-depressant drugs, according to studies.
All you need is a set of comfortable clothes, including some of the best workout leggings if you're feeling trendy) and yoga mats to get started. Not only will you be able to touch your toes at 75, you'll also feel happier in general. You can also find more detail on Helen Mirren's XBX workout here.
Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and Channel Editor at Fit&Well. He's previously written for titles like Men's Health and Red Bull, and covers all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website.
Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen kickboxer and runner. His top fitness tip? Stretch.
Real life weight loss: "I was hooked on soda, weighed 400lbs – now I'm ripped"
Weight loss David Roden used to be a 400lbs, diet soda-swigging gamer – now he's 200lbs lighter and entering bodybuilding competitions
By Fit&Well •
Could you handle this old school 1960s PE-style workout?
Workout Famous fitness YouTubers Buff Dudes have resurrected and tried this classic 1960s style HIIT workout
By Matt Evans •
Best ab rollers: top ab wheels to tone your core
Buying Guide The best ab rollers target all the muscles in your mid-section, helping build abs whilst also boosting strength and stability
By Lucy Gornall •
Best treadmill: top home running machines ranked
Buying guide From bargain deals to gym-worthy machines, these are the best treadmills you can buy
By Lee Bell •
Best exercise bike: from Peloton to more affordable alternatives
Buying guide Invest in one of the best exercise bikes to burn calories, lose weight and improve your cardio fitness at home
By Lee Bell •
Best elliptical machines: The top cross trainers for weight loss and home use
Buying guide The best elliptical machines can help you lose weight, improve fitness and tone muscles
By Lee Bell •
Best cheap fitness tracker deals: Bargains on bands and watches from top brands
Deals These are the best fitness tracker deals on great brand names like Fitbit, Huawei, Garmin and more
By Rob Clymo •
Marvel star Brie Larson's strength training plan is incredible
Fitness From landmine lifts to one arm pull ups the actress is powering through her workouts
By Sarah Finley •
How to lose weight on your arms: Tone and strengthen your arms to fight flab
Weight loss Banish bingo wings with the best diet, specific exercises and helpful workout tips to help lose weight on your arms
By Leon Poultney •
Here's how you can get an effective workout in just 10 minutes
Fitness We talk to two personal trainers about how you can squeeze in a short workout to your busy day
By Sarah Finley •