As we age, our bodies naturally become less flexible. We gain small aches and pains. The effects of big or small injuries accumulate and lead to pain or stiffness
. Our systems produce less collagen, a key ingredient in much of our bodies’ connective tissue and cartilage. And it is harder to maintain muscle mass. Losing flexibility and muscle can make it harder to stay in good shape, recover from an injury, and even do basic tasks like tying our shoes or climbing stairs.
What’s more, as it becomes harder to do these things, we easily fall into a habit of doing less, which begins a self-perpetuating cycle in which we become capable of even less because our muscles tighten or weaken further and our bones lose density.
Fortunately, there are some things you can do to slow down the process and even reverse it. Here are some tips for maintaining flexibility as you age.Stretch every day and before and after exercise.
Stretching every day is a great way to prevent injury and keep your muscles flexible. Stretching can also relax the mind, lower stress, and improve focus.
You should warm your muscles up a little before stretching. Never stretch cold muscles as this can lead to strains and tears. Warming up could mean taking a hot shower or doing some warm-up exercises to get your blood pumping before you start your stretch routine.
You should also stretch before and after exercising. Again, you want to warm up a little, then stretch, then transition into your workout. When you are done, you want to stretch again, particularly concentrating on anything you just used and anything that feels tight.
Stretch in smooth, slow, and deliberate movements, not through bouncing or fast motions. Look at stretching diagrams and videos to ensure you are maintaining the right posture for the optimal stretch. And hold each stretch for about twenty to thirty seconds. Make sure to drink plenty of water.Use a foam roller to address tight muscles.
A foam roller can be used to massage tight muscles. The pressure directly interacts with the myofascial complex and releases localized tension. The flexibility gained from a single session may last no longer than ten minutes. However, routine foam rolling can increase long term flexibility.
It is usually recommended to do 3 to 5 sets of 20 to 30 seconds each. Online videos are a great place to watch visual demonstrations of different ways to foam roll if you are unfamiliar with it.Make sure you have collagen or certain nutrients in your diet.
If you want to be flexible, you need to make sure your body has the right building blocks. One of the best ways to get your body producing enough collagen is to eat it (or eat the amino acids that your body needs in order to make it).
Collagen is found in animal-based foods like bone broth and gelatin because animals also produce collagen to care for their bones, muscles, and joints. You can also choose to consume collagen supplements
, which will ensure that you have enough building blocks to keep your joints and muscles (as well as your skin and hair) happy. Make sure to take collagen in combination with foods or drinks rich in vitamin C because vitamin C is also necessary for your body to convert digested collagen into the various types needed for your own skin, bones, joints, tendons, and more.
If you are a vegetarian, look for joint and mobility supplements
that combine the necessary amino acids from various plant-based ingredients. Glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate are two good ones to look out for, as is Boswellia extract.Pay attention to your body.
If you are older and trying to get in shape or increase your flexibility, make sure to do so slowly, in stages. Too many times, people push themselves to achieve results on strict schedules and wind up with an injury that lays them up for months.
As you age, you can injure yourself more easily, and recovery will take longer. Don’t expect to be able to push yourself as hard as you were able to do in your twenties. Rest an aching knee. Try forms of exercise that are not as trying on the body, like swimming and yoga. Use the restorative benefits of ice and heat to keep swelling in check and promote good blood flow.
That said, do not fall into a pattern of inactivity. You will lose muscle and flexibility quickly, and you will find it harder to regain each of those as you get older.
If you have chronic pain that limits your ability to exercise or stretch, seek out physical therapy to address those issues. Otherwise, they will become worse overtime and lead to other limitations.
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