Ways to Maintain or Improve Flexibility with Age
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Maybe you can't move like you once did in your earlier years, but that doesn't mean you should stop working to improve your flexibility.
“Flexibility is important at all ages because it allows for proper, efficient, biomechanical movement,” explains Cooper Fitness Center Professional Fitness Trainer Louie Herrera.
There are ways to improve or maintain your flexibility as you age. Herrera explains how you can get your range of motion back on track.
Why Does Flexibility Decline?
A decrease in flexibility occurs when the harmonious relationship between our joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles is disrupted.
"As we age, this flow is challenged by the natural decline of the musculoskeletal system or by prior injuries," says Herrera.
In other words, muscles shrink, lose mass and develop scar tissue to repair from injury. This can result in less flexibility and a decreased rate of responsiveness within the muscle fibers.
It's not just our muscles. Tendons, the cord-like tissues that attach muscle to bone, lose water content as we age. This can make muscles stiffer and less able to tolerate stress.
Our joints also lose range of motion due to the corresponding tendon and ligament limitations. This can lead to sudden injuries, arthritis and other unforeseen diseases.
Parameters to Help with Flexibility
When it comes to preventing flexibility loss, exercise is key. Being physically active five to six days a week can help increase blood flow to tissues in your body, including joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles.
"An increase in blood flow increases the rate in which two of the most important molecules in the body, water and oxygen, are absorbed," says Herrera. “Both are imperative when it comes to flexibility.”
Not only is it important to make sure you’re exercising regularly, but that you’re exercising properly, too. Proper execution is paramount to maintaining flexibility.
“Improper exercise technique can expose your body to small detectable or undetectable micro-injuries that can result in pockets of scar tissue throughout your muscles,” says Herrera.
This newly formed scar tissue is not very flexible and, consequently, can decrease the muscles’ ability to lengthen or produce force efficiently.
There are various stretching techniques that can be utilized to promote greater movement within your body, but Herrera recommends the following if you're new to stretching or doing so without professional guidance:
- Perform a 10-15 minute warm-up to increase blood flood to joints and tissue prior to stretching
- Avoid stretching past 60 percent of your maximum range of motion
- Enter the stretch slowly
- Hold each stretch for 10-15 seconds
If you are looking for guidance when it comes to stretching, consider scheduling a session with a professional fitness trainer. A certified trainer can help you assess movement patterns through a Functional Movement Screen (FMS). This seven-movement pattern test is designed to screen a person’s overall mobility and stability including squatting, lunging and reaching.
For more information on FMS or to schedule an appointment with a professional fitness trainer, visit cooperfitnesscenter.com.