For numerous reasons, our bodies tend to become less flexible with age. Loss of skin elasticity, muscle tone, and bone density are partially to blame, but it’s also a natural result of the fact that our tendons lose water content as we get older, which means they become stiffer. While losing flexibility is a natural part of aging, it’s important to learn how to improve flexibility in your sunset years. Not only will it help you perform daily activities and reduce your risk of injury, but also it can decrease chronic pain. Scroll down to learn what you can do to boost your flexibility.
How to Improve Flexibility
Talk to a Professional
First, talk to a doctor or physical therapist if you’re looking to enhance your flexibility. Especially if you’re quite inflexible at the moment, suddenly diving into new stretching exercises is unwise. A doctor or physical therapist can help you learn how to improve your flexibility safely. They can also help you figure out which stretches are right for you.
Warm Up Your Body
To start, walk around (or walk in place) for 5 to 10 minutes to warm your body up. It’s important to prepare your body for activity because if you jump right in, you risk injuring yourself. Walking around will help prepare your muscles, joints, and heart for stretching exercises.
Never Force a Stretch
Gently stretch, moving slowly, and listen to your body’s cues. Use smooth movements to prevent injury, and never bounce or jerk in an attempt to deepen a stretch. You should only be stretching until you feel tension in the muscle. If you feel pain, stop right away.
Hold Each Stretch
After easing yourself into a stretch, hold the position for about 30 seconds. This gives your muscles time to relax. To get started, the National Institutes of Health recommends the following four flexibility exercises for older adults:
If you’re ever uncertain about a stretch, don’t attempt it without talking to your doctor first.
Avoid Locking Your Joints
Although it’s fine for your arms and legs to be straight while you stretch, your joints shouldn’t be stiff and locked. You may find that it’s more comfortable to keep your joints slightly bent.
Remember to Breathe
Sometimes while stretching, people find themselves unconsciously holding their breath. So as you stretch, try to focus on breathing in and out slowly and steadily.
The key to improving your flexibility is to stretch a little bit every day. As the weeks go by, you’ll find that you’re able to stretch further and further. Keep in mind that each stretching session can be relatively short. All you need is about 10 to 20 minutes. If you can’t stretch every day, try to stretch at least every other day.
Remember, you can’t become amazingly flexible overnight. Take baby steps, slowly moving in the right direction. In addition, keep in mind that some exercise programs incorporate stretching. So if the idea of simply stretching bores you, consider practicing tai chi or yoga to boost your flexibility.
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