As children, we are naturally flexible. This is because, as kids, many of our bones are made of flexible cartilage that hardens over time.
In our 20 and 30’s, our bones are well established, and flexibility takes a bit more work to attain. When we get over the age of 36, we are no longer naturally flexible and need to act intentionally to keep our bodies bending and moving with ease.
Flexibility is an essential part of good health and fitness, and is especially vital for seniors.
It is common for people to decrease their physical activity and activities in their general daily routines because they do not feel flexible enough to perform them. However, as we will see, this can have a negative effect on their lives as they reduce the amount they do and slowly this starts to reduce the amount they ‘can’ do.
What should be done instead?
Flexibility at its core means being able to move your joints freely and easily within your normal limits.
Stretching these limits gradually helps you improve your flexibility and recruit more muscles. For example: a deeper squat engages your muscles more than a shallow squat and means your hips are moving further as you drop down lower.
Even with joint conditions such as osteoarthritis, significant improvements can still be made in flexibility: yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, dancing, swimming, massage, foam rolling, and general stretching are all common ways in which we can help our bodies to move comfortably and freely.
How do I maintain or increase my flexibility?
We all need to embark on a flexibility program. This is particularly important as we age.
For instance, neck pain can become more frequent over time. Yet there are several ways to ease muscle tension and improve neck flexibility.
If you get this right, your posture may improve, your aches and pains reduce (or even disappear!), and you are more likely to remain injury free and healthy over your lifetime.
Let’s look at an example of how flexibility helps seniors.
Betty is a lovely 75-year-old lady with apprehension around falling. Research shows that taking longer steps reflects a more balanced stride.
However, Betty’s hip muscles are quite tight. By working with a physiotherapist to improve her flexibility and step length, Betty improves her stride and therefore reduces her risk of falling. She avoids a fall, a costly injury and can continue to do the things she loves.
The saying “use it or lose it” is so true for flexibility.
We become more flexible with consistent effort. The good news is: loss of flexibility is reversible!
We are not talking about the kind of flexibility of being able to do the splits or turn yourself inside out (although there are videos out there of elderly performing these activities!).
We are more focused on keeping ourselves active, using your body in the way it was meant to be used, and feeling better in the long run.
Here are a few the best balance and flexibility exercises for seniors that we recommend.
Want to talk with a physiotherapist near you to learn more?
Contact our friendly mobile physiotherapy team today. We’re always happy to discuss ways that you can improve your flexibility.
Article written by Maddy Low and Karleen Scott, TPC physiotherapists