It is easy to notice that stretching comes much easier to the kids rather than adults (like many other things do). Even though we may not notice the gradual change, but at some point we might realise that we have become much stiffer than in the past. How does flexibility change with age and what can we do about it? We will try to answer these questions here.
What is flexibility?
According to the American Council on Exercise, flexibility is defined as “the range of motion of a given joint or group of joints or the level of tissue extensibility that a muscle group possesses.”
This means that each joint and muscle in your body may have a different level of flexibility. Some muscles may feel short and restricted; some areas of your body might feel loose.
Why flexibility is important?
Being flexible is helpful in everyday life, and we might not think about it until the time we feel there is a problem with it facing it in daily activities such as getting dressed, reaching for objects, maintaining normal walking patterns or bending.
These are some of the benefits that flexibility offers to us:
– More mobility and physical freedom
– Less injury prone
– Better posture
– Better balance
– Better mind-body connection
– Less soreness
Is flexibility affected with age?
In a short the answer is yes. Scientific research concentrating on “Flexibility of Adults Aged 55–86 Years” revealed an accelerated decline in men starting at the age of 71 years old, whereas in women the onset of decline started at 63 years old. Both men and women showed a significant decline in hip flexion and shoulder abduction.
The main reason of the decline of flexibility with age is the changes that occur in the connective tissues of the body.
As we get older, our bodies go through certain changes including:
– Loss of muscle mass
– Loss of bone density
– An increased amount of calcium deposits in the body
– Decrease of the amount of synovial fluid that lubricates the joints (hence, the bones are more likely to come in contact).
– Decrease in elasticity of ligaments
– Decrease of cartilage (connective tissue that cushions the joints), which affects most of all the hips and knees.
So, even if you take out of the equation any medical conditions, the fact that our muscles, ligaments and tendons weaken as we age, makes them less able to support our joints’ full range of motions.
In addition to that, as lean mass decreases, it is likely that extra weight is gained which places extra stress on the joints, making it harder for them to work properly.
What can we do about it?
Even though we can’t stop these natural changes in our body, it does not mean that one should not even try to improve flexibility in they are getting old and inflexible. You can increase flexibility at any age; it only means that you need to put more effort to achieve this. You may not be able to be as vigorous and strong as you were in the past, but you definitely can make your body as young and flexible as possible.
How does yoga help?
Yoga is one of the examples of activities that will increase the flexibility of the body, also suggested by the NHS. For the best effect, it is advised to practise it at least twice a week performing the asanas which work on all the major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).
You are welcome to join our Hatha yoga classes at Alamba yoga. At the start you might find some of your muscles stiff, but after several weeks of regular practice you will be surprised to find that the muscles have become more supple.
Pictures: Jolie, Baldish and Suzanne practicing yoga at Alamba Yoga
- Flexibility of Older Adults Aged 55–86 Years and the Influence of Physical Activity by Liza Stathokostas, Matthew W. McDonald, 2 Robert M. D. Little, and Donald H. Paterson
- Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha by Swami Satyananda Saraswati