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

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


Background and purpose: 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.

Subjects: 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.

Methods: 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.

Results: 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).

Discussion and conclusion: 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.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / physiology*
  • Linear Models
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities / methods*
  • Range of Motion, Articular / physiology*
  • Time Factors