As we all know, with age our skin and connective tissue lose elasticity, which making us look and feel old. The effects of this slow process also manifest itself into poor body mechanics and alignment, which is why our ability to bend and flex becomes more limited. Even more, everyday activities, like hunching over the computer, can shorten some muscles. That, along with the natural loss of muscle elasticity, can result in a strain or a tear when we try to carry out any quick or awkward motion, which could stretch your muscles beyond their limit. In some cases, lack of flexibility can be a major contributing factor to muscle and joint pain or even an injury.
Staying flexible as you age is a good idea. When we regularly do different stretching workouts and exercises, our muscular tissues and tendons improve. That means that a more flexible muscle has the potential to become a stronger muscle, which may boost your metabolism and your fitness level. As a result, the limbs and joints will have a better ability to move, thus helping your body to avoid injury. What’s more, stretching may improve your circulation, increasing blood flow to your muscles. And having good circulation can help protect you against some illnesses, from diabetes to kidney disease. Better flexibility has even been linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
What is Stretching?
Stretching is simply the act of extending or lengthening to the complete length or scale that our body is capable of. Stretching involves straightening or lengthening your body, muscles, and limbs. Just as there are different types of flexibility, there are also different types of stretching. Stretches are either dynamic (meaning they involve movement) or static. Dynamic stretches closely mimic movements made during exercise, so they are usually used to prepare for athletic events. Static stretches are used to improve flexibility and cool your body down after you exercise, and are therefore done when the body is standing still. The focus is on relaxing the body part being stretched and letting it go further on its own.
To increase your flexibility, start with about 10 minutes of stretching a day, focusing on the major muscle groups: upper body (arms, shoulders, neck), back, and lower body (thighs, calves, ankles). Then, depending on your daily activities, focus on specific stretches for problem-prone areas. A study published in the Journal of Strength Conditioning and Research1 found that after everyday stretching for a month, participants who went on to stretch just few times a week maintained their degree of flexibility. Those who stopped stretching, however, lost about 7 percent of their hip range of motion within a month.
If you have back pain from sitting at a desk all day, doing 2-minute stretch “Standing Cat-Camel” few times everyday could help. Here’s how:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees bent slightly.
- Lean forward, placing your hands just above your knees.
- Round your back so that your chest is closed and your shoulders are curved forward.
- Then arch your back so that your chest opens and your shoulders roll back.
- Repeat several times.