Staying physically active as you age is not only beneficial for your heart and lungs, but it helps protect your joints, too. A sedentary life causes your joints to lose their ability to move through a complete range of motion, causing you to lose flexibility. By stretching and exercising regularly, you can improve your flexibility. It is important to start slowly, and improve gradually, as you gain flexibility. Consult with your health-care provider before you start becoming more physically active or begin a regular exercise program.
The Flexibility Factor
As you age, your muscles lose strength and elasticity according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. In addition, certain activities, such as leaning forward while you work on your computer, shorten some of your muscles. This process makes you susceptible to muscle strains or tears if you make any awkward or sudden movements. You can also lose flexibility as you age because of the early stages of arthritis. When you start stretching and lengthening your muscles regularly, you'll regain some of your flexibility.
Stretching is Key
Static stretching is an effective means of improving the range of motion in your joints and improving the circulation of blood to your muscles. Stretch your major muscle groups between two and three times weekly. When you perform a static stretch, you want to gradually elongate the muscle, hold the elongated position, and then let the muscle return to its resting position. Gradually work toward holding the stretch for 30 seconds in the elongated position. Never continue stretching if you experience pain or excessive discomfort. Also, never stretch a sore or injured muscle.
Dive Right In
A particularly effective way to improve your flexibility if you're more than 40 years of age and you have been inactive, is to exercise in the water. According to he Arthritis Foundation, exercising in water supports your joints and freedom of movement. And, according to the American Council on Exercise, you can move your joints through a wider range of motion in the water. You can either perform water exercises on your own or participate in an organized class. Be certain that the class you join is appropriate for your age and fitness level.
Yoga at Any Age
Yoga is a form of mind-body exercise that combines both mental and physical discipline. Yoga features a series of body poses that help to increase your strength and flexibility. The postures are performed simultaneously with controlled breathing exercises. which help your muscles to relax. The number of older adults participating in yoga has grown because their doctors have recommended it, according to the AARP. If you have been sedentary, it is important to start with a level one class, or a class that is designed for older adults.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Aging Changes in the Bones - Muscles - Joints
- Yoga Journal: Count on Yoga: 38 Ways Yoga Keeps You Fit
- HelpGuide.org: Senior Exercise and Fitness Tips
- ACE Fitness: Make a Splash With Water Fitness
- ACE Fitness: Flexible Benefits
- AARP: What Yoga Can Do For You
- Arthritis Foundation: Water Exercise