Thursday, August 19th, 2010

Dr Shawn dillBy Dr. Shawn Dill

As we age, we lose strength in our muscles and they become just a bit stiffer than they used to be in our younger years. Our range of movement may become limited, causing our muscles and joints to feel sore. When our tissues lose elasticity, we begin to tighten up, which leaves our muscles open to potential tears, aches and pains.

There’s a catch-22 effect that takes place as we grow older: We feel stiff and sore so we don’t engage in activities that force us to exercise and stretch our muscles. And when we don’t exercise and stretch our muscles, we feel stiff and sore. In order to maintain proper posture and normal muscle function, it is important that we retain the flexibility in our muscles.

Flexibility is our body’s ability to move freely and with its full range of motion. We need flexibility to lift, walk, stretch, bend, swim and go about our daily lives without hindrance. Maintaining full flexibility means that we are able to remain mobile.

Even though our muscles naturally lose suppleness, strength and size with age, we can take steps to improve our flexibility. Because flexibility helps to reduce soreness in the muscles, the most important thing we should do is stretch regularly, especially after exercising, in order to reduce any muscle fatigue that might set in. Incorporating massage into your routine also helps  move blood and nutrients to tissues, decreases the risk of injury and improves physical performance.

We need to make a cognitive effort to incorporate flexibility exercises into our regular workout regimen. To some degree, walking, jogging, swimming, cycling and strength training all work to increase flexibility and tone muscles. Yoga, pilates and regular massages are particularly helpful in increasing flexibility because the gradual stretching movements give us the time to push our flexibility slowly and safely.

One of the nice things about stretching is that we don’t have to set aside a specific time in our schedule to do it (though that would be the ideal situation). Rather, make it a habit to stretch while sitting at your desk, watching TV or doing the dishes. Work the larger muscle groups first—the shoulders, hamstrings, hips, lower back and calves—but don’t neglect the rest of the body.

For assistance in stretching, look no further than the Human Touch massage chair, which offers a “stretching” setting for increased flexibility. Staying strong and stretched has never been easier!

Of course, combining exercise with a balanced, healthy diet with minimal sugars and fats provides us with the energy and nutrients we need to help maintain joint and muscle health. It only makes sense to nourish our bodies with foods that give us the drive to stay active as we strive to remain flexible.

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