Fitness Magazine

Flexibility and Aging

By Ninazolotow @Yoga4HealthyAge
by Baxter and Nina

Flexibility and Aging

Four Ages in Life by Edvard Munch

As with a lot of the changes of aging, you may not think about loss of flexibility until it is staring you in your tight, stiff face—maybe the first day in early spring that you start to work in your garden and you realize it’s a bit harder than it used it be and maybe even a bit painful. Yes, as we age, our flexibility naturally decreases. Although some of this is due to age-related changes, a sedentary lifestyle can accelerate the process. Since several factors influence your flexibility, let’s take a closer look at how aging affects each of those factors and which ones you can influence with your yoga practice. Muscles. As muscles age, they shrink and lose mass. The number and size of muscle fibers also decrease. In addition to age-related changes, muscles can shrink and tighten over time due to environmental factors, such as inactivity or habitual ways of standing and sitting. This overall shrinking of your muscles means that they literally cannot stretch as far as they did when you were younger. In addition, as you age, your muscles take longer to respond to stretching exercises than they did when you were young. So you may have to work more patiently to achieve improvements. However, practicing a wide variety of stretching poses can help you maintain the both flexibility and health of your muscles. Fascia. The connective tissue that surrounds every muscle in your body tends to dry up and become more inflexible with age. In addition to natural age-related changes, your fascia, like your muscles, can shrink and tighten due environmental factors such as inactivity or habitual ways of standing and sitting. Practicing a wide variety of stretching poses will help you maintain the flexibility and health of your fascia as well as your muscles. Tendons and Ligaments. As you age, the water content of both tendons (the tissues that attach muscles to bones) and ligaments (the tissues that attach bones to bones) decreases, making the tissues stiffer. This, in turn, restricts the range of motion in your joints, leading to overall decreases in flexibility. While you should not actively stretch your tendons or ligaments (this could damage them!), regularly stretching your muscles and fascia will indirectly benefit your tendons and ligaments by bringing nourishment to them and the joints they are connected to. Joints. The cushioning cartilage within a joint can break down from a lifetime of use, causing the joint to become inflamed (this is called arthritis). This presence of inflammation reduces range of motion in the joint because fluid build-up makes movement more painful and restricted. For arthritic joints, you can reduce joint pain and swelling, and increase movement by practicing non-weight bearing movements in appropriate yoga poses. Depending on where you are starting from, with continued practice, you may even be able to return to normal movement. For healthy joints, continuing to practice a wide variety of stretching poses and moving your joints through their entire range of motion (something yoga excels at!) will help keep your joints healthy as you age, nourishing the cartilage within the joints as well as the tissues that support them. For information about how to improve flexibility with yoga, see Techniques for Cultivating Flexibility.Subscribe to Yoga for Healthy Aging by Email ° Follow Yoga for Healthy Aging on Facebook ° Join this site with Google Friend Connect

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