We can maintain our flexibility and range of motion as we age by exercising and stretching on a daily basis. Keeping our bodies active will prevent loss of function and reduce stiffness in our joints allowing us to live a longer, healthier life.
As we age we are not as flexible as when we were younger. So why is that?
Dr. Chris Serafini: It’s a great question. As our bodies age, we lose small amounts of flexibility as a result of the normal aging process. This can happen for several reasons. A loss of water in our tissues and spine, increased stiffness in your joints, loss of elasticity throughout the muscles and tendons and surrounding tissue. Decreased flexibility within our body can negatively impact our everyday life by preventing us from doing normal functional stuff. For example, it is fairly common for some individuals to decrease their physical activity because they don’t feel flexible enough to perform the activity they once did. However, this is kind of a self-limitation and can lead to an even greater loss of function.
Our bodies operate under a principle called use it or lose it. We talk about this all the time. Motion is lotion. If we don’t use our muscles, we tend to lose strength. If we lose strength in the muscles, we don’t move them as often, which may lead to further decreases in flexibility, and if not taken through their full range of motion, to maintain their length, they start to lose more and more function. But the good news is that we have the ability to slow or reverse some of these changes in our body. We cannot prevent some loss of flexibility, but we have every opportunity really to prevent losses of function due to this decrease.
In what areas of the body is flexibility affected the most by age?
Dr. Chris Serafini: I would say really the spine or the trunk. It’s the main infrastructure of the body. We use our extremities a lot, our legs, our arms, our wrists, our shoulders just doing the normal activities of daily living. But the spine really gets neglected. A lot of people don’t move it. And it starts to break down fairly quickly if you don’t.
Why is it so important to try to maintain flexibility, or try to regain it as we age?
Dr. Chris Serafini: I mentioned this earlier, if you don’t use it, you lose it. Motion is lotion. Many times patients just start to decrease their activities. They’re what we reference as ADL’s, our activities of daily living. As we get older, we start to do less, and less, and less, and we don’t use it and lose it. The more we can get out and do things outside of our normal activities, we’re going to help the flexibility in the body create fluidity of motion, and maintain our flexibility.
What are some exercises people can do to improve flexibility?
Dr. Chris Serafini: Most people are familiar with exercises. I mean, you just really need to stretch. There’s lots of common sense exercises you can do, you can certainly look online and get plenty of information. Point is, you just have to do it. I’m sure most people at this point in their lives that are suffering with any flexibility issues could start to stretch on their own. They know basic stretches. That’s all you really need to know. You don’t need to know anything super complicated, but you just need to do it. And if you start off slow and just kind work your way up it is fine. If you bend over to touch your toes, and you’re far away from it at first, that’s fine. Just keep doing it and doing it, and eventually you’ll build more, and more, and more flexibility.
What are some easy things people can do to maintain flexibility on a daily basis?
Dr. Chris Serafini: I would just say move. If you’re sitting on a couch all day watching TV, obviously you’re going to lose flexibility. So just move. Move outside of your normal activities of daily living. Getting up to go to the bathroom, or grabbing a jar out of the refrigerator is not going to increase your flexibility. That’s just normal day to day stuff. You have to get outside of that. So, find yourself some sort of exercises or stretches that you can perform. Even if you’re not doing it every day. I mean, every day is great. That’s fantastic. But if you’re doing it, I would say at least four times a week. If you’re only doing it three times a week, that means you’re not doing it more than you’re doing it. So I always recommend everybody, if they’re doing any kind of exercise program, stretching program, you want to do it at least four days a week. But it’s really common sense things, you have to move, get outside of your normal daily activity.
If you are interested in speaking with Dr. Chris Serafini, visit www.thescottsdalechiropractor.com or call 480-443-7678 to schedule an appointment.