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Phys Ther. 2001 May;81(5):1110-7.

The effect of duration of stretching of the hamstring muscle group for increasing range of motion in people aged 65 years or older.

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Department of Physical Education, College of Health and Human Performance, Brigham Young University, RB 120A, Provo, UT 84602, USA.



Stretching protocols for elderly people (> or = 65 years of age) have not been studied to determine the effectiveness of increasing range of motion (ROM). The purpose of this study was to determine which of 3 durations of stretches would produce and maintain the greatest gains in knee extension ROM with the femur held at 90 degrees of hip flexion in a group of elderly individuals.


Sixty-two subjects (mean age = 84.7 years, SD = 5.6, range = 65-97) with tight hamstring muscles (defined as the inability to extend the knee to less than 20 degrees of knee flexion) participated. Subjects were recruited from a retirement housing complex and were independent in activities of daily living.


Subjects were randomly assigned to 1 of 4 groups and completed a physical activity questionnaire. The subjects in group 1 (n = 13, mean age = 85.1 years, SD = 6.4, range = 70-97), a control group, performed no stretching. The randomly selected right or left limb of subjects in group 2 (n = 17, mean age = 85.5 years, SD = 4.5, range = 80-93), group 3 (n = 15, mean age = 85.2 years, SD = 6.5, range = 65-92), and group 4 (n = 17, mean age = 83.2 years, SD = 4.6, range = 68-90) was stretched 5 times per week for 6 weeks for 15, 30, and 60 seconds, respectively. Range of motion was measured once a week for 10 weeks to determine the treatment and residual effects. Data were analyzed using a growth curve model.


A 60-second stretch produced a greater rate of gains in ROM (60-second stretch = 2.4 degrees per week, 30-second stretch = 1.3 degrees per week, 15-second stretch = 0.6 degrees per week), which persisted longer than the gains in any other group (group 4 still had 5.4 degrees more ROM 4 weeks after treatment than at pretest as compared with 0.7 degrees and 0.8 degrees for groups 2 and 3, respectively).


Longer hold times during stretching of the hamstring muscles resulted in a greater rate of gains in ROM and a more sustained increase in ROM in elderly subjects. These results may differ from those of studies performed with younger populations because of age-related physiologic changes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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