Feb 062012
 


Have you ever looked at a child and marvelled at how flexible they are? Been jealous of their ability to fall over and bounce right back up again? Have you ever wished that your body still had some of that youthful elasticity that kids demonstrate every day? Have you ever wondered how much better you would move, walk , run and play now if you did?

Why do we lose flexibility?

Whilst there are undeniable and irreversible changes that occur to our tendons, ligaments and muscles as we age, lack of movement is the major cause of the loss of flexibility we experience. Sitting in chairs and slumping over a desk since the age of five has reduced the range of movement in our whole body particularly the hips and thoracic spine.

Move it or lose it.

Our body operates on a move it or lose it principle. If we don’t use a range of movement we lose it. A visit to the rural areas of countries like China or India will confirm that if you continue to perform a movement on a regular basis you maintain the ability to perform that movement no matter how old you are. People of all ages can squat with their bums practically touching the ground, something that very few westerners can do.

The lack of mobility we have as adults affects everything we do. Whether we want to run a marathon, have a hit of tennis or play with the grandkids, our ability to move has been affected by our western lifestyle.

As we age it just becomes more noticeable. Most people over the age of 60 will move differently. When they walk their stride is shorter and they have less spring in their step, when they turn their head their whole body follows and when they reach for the ground it is a struggle getting down and even more so getting up.

The same thing is happening to you no matter how old you are , its just that you may not notice it yet. The days spent in the office and at school have taken their toll and your ability to walk and run, bend and reach , twist and rotate , lunge and squat have been affected.

The result of this is a change in the way our bodies move, from the elastic flexible movement we had as a child to the stiff , unforgiving and restricted movement patterns of the elderly.

That’s the bad news .

Reversing the process

The good news however is that our bodies are an amazingly adaptable organism . No matter how old we are we can improve our range of movement and the elasticity of our bodies.

A regular dynamic three dimensional stretching program can restore both the range of movement and the elasticity in our bodies. I have given some examples of how to do this here and here and there will be more video blogs on how to stretch in the coming months.

A flexibility program should be something you do every day in the same way you wouldn’t go a day without brushing your teeth.

It doesn’t have to be long, 10-15 minutes would be great but start with 5 minutes and get into the habit. Whilst I would highly recommend three dimensional dynamic stretches that you have read about on the blog, any stretch will be better than nothing.

Unless you do something to offset the restricted movement patterns our normal lives have then poor posture, injury, lower back pain, headaches etc will be a constant part of your life.

Another alternative is to start playing a variety of sports. For example playing a multi dimensional sport like tennis will aid your bodies ability to rotate, swimming will be good for your shoulder flexibility, walking or running on trails will help your feet, ankles and hips.

If you can take your joints through three dimensional movement in a dynamic fashion on a regular basis it will improve the way your body moves and restore efficient, pain free movement patterns.

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  4 Responses to “Is flexibility dependant on your age?”

  1. Great post! I always assumed that a loss of flexibility came with age and maybe a bit of genetics added in there, but this makes a lot more sense, especially given the amount of older baby boomers I see out on the trails. Use it or lose it is my new mantra..as is a more regular yoga routine ; -) Thanks!

  2. Andy, you talk about loss of flexibility as if it’s an unequivocally “bad thing” and yet, animals lose flexibility as they mature to adulthood. You only have to look at a floppy puppy to realise that flexibility doesn’t aid its efficiency at locomotion. Adult dogs “tighten up” as they mature and become far more efficient runners. Same with human babies as they grow up.

    Do you not think that the important thing is to maintain the flexibility *that you need* rather than to just maintain all round flexibility for the sake of it?

    • Thanks for your comments Tim , and I totally agree – as you’ll see from this article http://www.mile27.com.au/why-less-flexible-runners-are-more-economical/

      My point is that there is no reason that the flexibility we have as a 15-20 year old should be any different to that as a 70 year old. If we squat down to the ground every day of our lives then you will maintain that flexibility.

      Your question about maintaining flexibility for the sake of it, is a valid one and it depends on if you are talking about running or life. For running you need enough flexibility, not too much or your efficiency drops. But the right amount of flexiblity for running may mean you suffer flexiblity in some real life situations. Eg full squat, sitting cross legged , touching your toes etc. How important that is compared to your running is up to the individual to decide

      Andy

  3. I’ve done without those for decades now Andy so I don’t think I’ll lose too much sleep over them. 😉

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