Why You Should Maintain Your Flexibility As You Age
Simply stretching is commonly overlooked when discussing fitness goals and improvements. The fact is that flexibility allows us to continue our independent lifestyles as we age and is widely considered the third pillar of fitness. As we age, our bodies begin to change. Our muscles shrink and our tendons lose water content causing stiffness and less tolerance for stress making them us susceptible to falls and breaks.
Maintaining your flexibility alone may not help you lose weight or lower your cholesterol but will help you maintain your muscle elasticity and allow you to reach other fitness goals like jogging, swimming, or cardio intensive walking - and that's not all.
Benefits of Maintaining Flexibility
When your muscles are loose and limber your body can relax more easily. It's hard to keep good posture when your back and neck are sore from sitting at a desk all day or not moving enough. Flexibility helps to keep your spine and hips in alignment which not only improves your posture but allows for better breathing and circulation.
Balance and Injury Prevention
When your body is limber you have more control of it. Tense muscles are harder to move with intention and so flexibility training will allow you to move more quickly and even keep you from falling if you trip or slide. A steep decline in flexibility can be the reason for more serious falls and injuries from falls as we age. Tight tendons and muscles could pull rather than cushion your bones and joints being the difference between a bruise and a break.
Pain and Stress Relief
You've surely heard of yoga but even just a nightly stretching routine can help you relieve stress by allowing you focus on your breathing and feeling your muscles loosen. If you have regular back or leg pain, stretching can relieve a lot of discomfort or tenderness that you may feel when trying to sleep at night.
Simple Stretches You Can Do At Home
*Consult your doctor before starting any new fitness program. For the following exercises you will need a mat to provide cushioning for your spine. Only stretch your body as far as feels comfortable. Overdoing it can cause strain or injury.
1. KNEE-TO-CHEST HUG - stretches the lower back.
Start by lying on the floor with your knees bent.
Bring your knees to your chest, wrapping your arms around your calves to bring your thighs closer to your upper body.
Keep your head on the ground to prevent neck strain.
2. LUMBAR TWIST STRETCH - stretches the lower back.
Begin by lying flat on the floor.
Bend your right knee.
Place your left hand on the outside of your right knee, and gently pull your thigh toward the left side of your body for a gentle twist.
Stretch your right arm out straight and turn your head to face your right arm.
Hold for 30 seconds.
Return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side.
3. SHOULDERS AND UPPER ARMS
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
Hold one end of a towel in your right hand.
Raise and bend your right arm to drape the towel down your back.
Keeping your right arm in place, reach behind your lower back and grasp the opposite end of the towel with your left hand. Now, you should be holding the towel with your right hand behind your neck and your left hand behind your lower back.
Gently pull the towel down with your left hand.