One of the worse things to feel after a peaceful night of sleep is stiff. It makes even the youngest of us hobble out of bed and feel somewhat incapacitated. Inflexibility is inevitable as we age. It is also a side effect of inactivity and obesity in all ages—young and old. Staying flexible is not hard. However, the term move it or lose has never been truer than when it comes to keeping yourself free-flowing. Here’s what our experts had to say about flexibility:
What are the most common problems of not staying flexible?
The skeleton provides the body with support and our joints allow the skeleton to be flexible and move around more easily. We lose bone mass or density as we age and, for women, during and after menopause. Bones also lose calcium and some minerals and are easier to break.
Our strength and endurance changes as we age, as well. So, as we get older we may not feel like we have enough energy to exercise, but lack of exercise and activity may result in lack of flexibility.
Some common health issues that may occur as we age and lose flexibility are:
- Gait changes from stiff joints, which can result in a fall.
- Osteoporosis that can result in fractures.
- Severe cases can lead to contractures, where the muscle and tendons become stiff.
So, it is very important to keep moving in order to remain as flexible as possible. Exercise is a great way to slow or prevent flexibility problems that could result in a fall or broken bone. Exercise can help strengthen bones, and can help other body systems including your heart and lungs. Always talk to your healthcare provider first before starting a new exercise routine.
-Jaime Cuff, FNP-BC is a Nurse Practitioner at Beaufort Memorial Orthopaedic Specialists.
What is a simple regime for staying flexible?
Spend 10 minutes in the morning stretching. Focus on the major muscle groups: back, legs and upper body (chest, shoulders, neck). Breathe deep during this time by inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your month. This will help you and your muscles relax. During this 10 minutes, do a mental check on your muscles. Which muscles are tight or painful? Which muscles do not bother you? Once a week spend a little more time on your tighter muscle groups or have someone stretch them for you. During your day, check into your body to see where your tension lies. While taking a small break, stretch arms overhead and in front of body and add in shoulder rolls to release tension near your neck. This will help limit stress build up and muscle tension. The stretching routine does not have to take a lot of time out of your day, but take the time to relax, release your muscles and take some deep breaths. Your body will thank you.
-Holly Wright, Owner of Trinity Fitness, Personal Trainer and Pilates Instructor
How do we stay flexible as we age?
People are living longer, that’s true, but with more chronic diseases than ever. We have “quantity” of life, but not always “quality” of life. These chronic diseases can be eliminated, I believe, with feeding our bodies the nutrients it needs, but also MOVING as often as we are able.
Stretching everyday is the most important activity to get more flexible and stay flexible. It’s even more important if one is a golfer, tennis player or plays any sports. Tai Chi is an activity that can help, but yoga actually accomplishes more and is readily available.
It is important to choose the most appropriate yoga class for the condition of your body. There are many types of yoga, and choosing the wrong class can actually cause injuries. The stretches, poses and deep breathing of yoga make our muscles limber and pliant. Anyone can practice yoga, as there are props and modifications available. Your yoga instructor should be experienced, and emphasize the proper alignment.
In addition to gaining flexibility, other benefits of yoga include:
> Builds muscle strength
> Perfects your posture
> Prevents cartilage and joint breakdown
> Protects your spine
> Benefits your bone health
> Increases your blood flow
> Ups your heart rate
> Drops your blood pressure
> Lowers blood sugar
> Improves your balance
> Eases your pain
> Supports your connective tissue
-Betty Melkon, BA, MEd, Board Certified Nutritional Counselor, Alliance-trained Yoga Instructor, Partner, Health Warrior Movement