Are You Aging Well? Try These Four Stretches
Are you aging well? I know it’s not a pleasant question, but it’s one we should be asking ourselves, at least, occasionally. How flexible are you? Did you cringe when I asked that? Flexibility is a measure of aging. Try these four stretches to make sure you aren’t aging faster than you should be!
Flexibility: How Fast Are You Aging?
Muscles lose strength and flexibility with age. They also become shorter and less elastic, and the ligaments and tendons surrounding them contract. This leads to stiff joints that require more effort in order to move. Range of motion then becomes restricted, which is a setup for future injury. Connective tissues can sprain or tear when a joint is stretched past its limited range of motion. Stretching lengthens the muscles around the joints enabling them to move more effectively.
Your quality of life is greatly enhanced or diminished by your level of flexibility, and the range of motion in your joints. We’ve all seen older people who can barely move. The limitations on what they can and cannot do is profound. A lack of flexibility leads to issues with posture and balance, and increases the risk of falling, which can set up a cascade for future complications.
Maintaining your flexibility is a major key to aging well. It doesn’t take much time, and is well worth the effort you’ll expend. You will need to be consistent, but who doesn’t have a few extra minutes each day to devote to their health?
I’m a huge fan of magnesium supplementation because it relaxes muscles, and relaxed muscles are more flexible.
Flexibility And Mobility
In my opinion, the number one reason to pay attention to the flexibility of your muscles and joints is increased mobility. The ability to be able to complete daily tasks, have freedom of movement, and full function of your body cannot be underestimated. When autonomy is taken away, life changes pretty fast.
Stretching isn’t glamorous, and rarely receives the attention it deserves. Flexibility is an often neglected aspect of fitness, which is unfortunate, because inflexible muscles and stiff joints lead to numerous problems throughout the body. Here’s why you want to be more flexible:
1. Decreased back pain and pain in general: Inflexible muscles in one part of the body can lead to pain and discomfort in, supposedly, unrelated areas. For instance, tight hamstrings have a negative impact on pelvic muscles, causing pressure in the lower back. Stress on the spine is created when these pelvic and hip flexor muscles are tight and restricted. Stretching all the main muscle groups in the body goes along way in preventing pain and dysfunction.
2. Increased range of motion: Tight muscles prevent joints from moving at their full range of motion. Everyday activities can then become difficult, leading to falls and other injuries.
3. Better posture: Poor posture is common as people age. Tight muscles affect the alignment of the spine, leading to poor posture. This negatively affects circulation and inhibits the nervous system. It can also lead to back pain, and back pain often becomes chronic.
4. Increased circulation: The blood carries vital nutrients and oxygen to all the cells of the body. Optimal circulation is essential for good health. Tense and tight muscles impede circulation, while relaxed muscles improve blood flow to both muscles and joints.
Can I Become More Flexible?
Your knees, ankles, and shoulders are three joints in your body that are used every time you walk or reach for something.
The shoulder is the most flexible and mobile joint in the body. You need it to push and pull, and to lift and rotate. Many shoulder muscles are not used during simple daily activities. This means you need to make a conscious effort to use all of your muscles using targeted exercises, which I will share below.
Knees were made to bend, and when they don’t, you’ll have pain and limited range of motion. If you haven’t noticed, you need your knees for every day tasks. The knee has many tendons, muscles, and ligaments that all work together to allow you to bend and move from side to side. Bending engages both your hamstring and quadricep muscles. Can you see how everything works together?
The ankle is a large hinge joint that allows the foot to move up and down. It is made up of three bones: the tibia or shin bone, the fibula, which is the narrow bone running alongside the shin bone, and the talus or ankle bone. Cartilage cushions these bones, and many ligaments, muscles, and tendons enable the ankle to move. If you’ve ever sprained your ankle, you know how it affects your mobility.
You can improve your flexibility no matter what your age. Muscle strength and flexibility both help maintain the integrity of your joints.
Stretches That Increase Flexibility
You can strengthen your joints and muscles by doing a few simple stretches and exercises at home. Perform each stretch a minimum of four days a week, and hold for at least thirty seconds.
Use a yoga mat or other soft surface when performing these stretches. You can also use bands to improve flexibility and range of motion. Click on the pictures below for more information.
- Standing Hamstring Stretch: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Bend your knees slightly. While you exhale, slowly bring your chest toward your knees as close as you can. Stretch gently and carefully. Your chest does not need to touch your knees. Only go as far as you can. Grip the backs of your lower legs and hold for 30-45 seconds. Slowly roll back up to your starting position. You’ll feel a stretch in your hamstrings, calves, glutes, and back. Keeping your hamstrings stretched and relaxed, prevent back pain.
If you haven’t heard of the piriformis muscle, it’s located on the outside of your butt, and helps rotate your hips. This stretch is a great way to prevent sciatica as this muscle crosses over the sciatic nerve. Keeping the piriformis muscle relaxed prevents irritation to the sciatic nerve. If you’ve ever had nerve pain, you now just how uncomfortable it is so prevention is key. This stretch is one of my favorites.
Place your elbow on the opposite knee while twisting your torso. Hold for 30-45 seconds while gently breathing in and out. You’ll feel a stretch in your hips, glutes, and back.
Extended Leg Inner Thigh Stretch
With one leg extended and the other one bent, grasp your toes and slowly bring your head to your knee. Your elbow should be close to your ear. Hold for at least 30 seconds and repeat on the other side. This stretch is great for the inner thighs, obliques, and upper arms.
Lunging Hip Flexor Stretch
This stretch works your hip flexors, glutes, and quads. Place your right knee on the floor, and your left foot in front of your right knee with the knee bent. Gently lower your right hip towards the floor and hold for one minute. Slowly build up the time you hold this stretch. Repeat on the other leg.
There are many other effective stretches you can do. Try to work all your major muscles to keep your body balanced and flexible.
How Young Are You?
Test the age of your body by watching the video below. The results may surprise you!
My Final Thoughts
Flexibility leads to increased mobility and the autonomy to complete what needs to be done on any given day. Mobility is something we should never take for granted. Improve your flexibility by taking a few minutes every day to stretch. My favorite time to do this is right when I wake up.
You’ll have better posture and balance and won’t experience the devastating consequences of being dependent on others as you age. Commit today to improve and maintain your flexibility so you can do all the things that bring you joy!
What do you do to maintain your flexibility? I would love if you’d share your tips and suggestions. Please take the time to leave a comment below!