When approaching a certain age, keeping track of your daily activities and habits becomes more and more important in maintaining your health and overall well-being. Also, the way we approach exercise changes, as our bodies change and we become more prone to injury. Flexibility is something that gradually declines as we get older, because our joints, muscles and tendons naturally lose elasticity, but luckily, you can actually get that elasticity back, or be aware on time so you don’t even have to lose it in the first place.
It’s something that needs to be constantly kept up and cared for so that your body doesn’t get stiff and stop you from doing the things you want. To help you in your efforts, here are some key factors of maintaining flexibility.
You probably expected this to be Number one on the list, and it really has to be. Stretching is the very definition of maintaining muscle elasticity, which is what we’re trying to do here. To keep your body flexible, it’s recommended to do stretching exercises at least three times a week.
Doing light stretches first thing every morning, before breakfast, will make you feel invigorated and ready for the day…and ensure you don’t have trouble tying your shoes or looking over your shoulder in the long run. If you’re not sure exactly where to start, you can see some examples of stretching exercises for seniors from the National Institute of Health, and if you’re not a senior yet but have decided it’s time to work on your flexibility, there’s plenty of examples also. Try a couple to ease into it, and remember that your muscles should stretch to the point that you feel tightness, but never any pain. Enjoy the feeling of getting your blood circulating!
Yoga and Tai Chi
These are both great ways to exercise flexibility, strength, and balance simultaneously. As the starting point for all martial arts experts, Tai Chi is essentially balance training, but it can be modified for aging adults to emphasize flexibility. Yoga offers an extremely wide range of exercises for many different levels of expertise, so don’t shy away from it, thinking that it’s difficult. It’s a great way to improve flexibility, balance, and strength, while releasing tension from your body and bringing your mind to a peaceful place.
As we age, our muscle mass begins to deplete and weight is gained much faster, which results in additional stress being put on the joints. This breaks down cartilage so joints easily become arthritic and inflamed, significantly reducing your flexibility. Three to five sessions of thirty-minute cardiovascular exercises weekly will keep your body lighter and more fresh. If you haven’t been active for a while, it’s good to start with brisk walking, or you can make the use of premium cycling accessories to ride your bicycle and make a day of it – the best thing about cardio is that you don’t have to do it at a gym and it’s a wonderful way to spend time outdoors. Also, stretching and other flexibility training should be combined with cardio, because muscles stretch better when warm.
Resistance Training Routines
To maintain overall physical fitness, you also need weight training. Most people imagine this as something that’s only for the young and those who want to look „buff“, but in reality, everybody needs to do some form of resistance training, and it doesn’t have to involve lifting weights.
It is necessary to keep your muscles strong enough so you can have better control over your body, and furthermore, various forms of resistance training help you maintain balance, which comes hand-in-hand with flexibility. Choose from a range of exercises where you use the weight of your body and some props, like a chair or wall.
Diet alone cannot help improve flexibility, but there are certain types of food that help lubricate joints and reduce inflammation. Incorporate Omega-3 fatty acids into your diet with fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel and sardines. If you don’t eat fish, then soy products, pumpkin and flax seeds, walnuts, and leafy vegetables such as kale and chard are also a great choice.
Also, to maintain healthy connective tissues, you will need foods that are rich in collagen, the protein that tendons and ligaments are mostly made up of. Bone broth stocks, found in soups and stews, are the best source of collagen. And you can easily add healthy spices to your meals and drinks! Spices such as cinnamon, ginger, and especially turmeric have anti-inflammatory properties.
Maintaining flexibility as you age is important to be healthy, enjoy life, and do the things you want. Doing the suggested exercises won’t be tedious but invigorating and enjoyable, just give yourself time and ease into it. Be patient, especially if you haven’t been active in a while – your muscles need some time to regain elasticity, so don’t expect to be as flexible as you once were after just a couple of stretches. Like all good things, a healthy body needs time and continuous care. Keep at it, and soon you will be proud to see yourself doing things you couldn’t do before, even if it’s something as simple as touching your toes!