Hey you. How are you feeling this morning? Did you wake up and jump out of bed or did your body take longer to wake up than you did?
Many of us take it as a fact of life, the older we get the stiffer we get.
It is true, as we age, our body tends to slow down and our joints and tendons tend to stiffen up but is it inevitable? Not completely. Not if you work at it.
Loss of flexibility and stiffness may be some of the most apparent effects of aging. However, ongoing research also shows that many age-related changes are due in large part to disuse.
In other words, BEING SEDENTARY WILL ACCELERATE THE AGING PROCESS; and at the same time, EXERCISE WILL SLOW IT– including declines in flexibility.
Psst. MEN…I’m talking to you as well. Men are especially prone to these connective tissue changes.
THREE PILLARS OF FITNESS
There are three main pillars of fitness, STRENGTH, CARDIO and FLEXIBILITY. Most of you reading this will know that for every minute of cardiovascular exercise you do you are burning extra calories and you are improving the health of your heart. You probably also know that for every rep in the gym you do you are getting stronger and hopefully your day to day activities get easier.
Flexibility is a bit less concrete. Like eating our vegetables, we know it’s good for us and if we don’t want to suffer from a loss of flexibility we should do it daily, but we don’t always do it because it isn’t what we desire in the moment. We don’t do it because we are starved for time and our perception is that flexibility training doesn’t pay the same dividends as other training.
I am hoping to change your mind on that.
Forgive me for this terrible analogy, but it’s the drunk driver who survives the car accident.
In horrific irony, this happens because his or her body is relaxed. It’s a fact. A limber body is more fluid and moves more efficiently than a stiff one.
It makes sense that if we’re less flexible our body doesn’t work optimally. From the simplest of daily tasks like tying our shoes to successfully being able to life heavy things without being afraid of being injured.
CONSISTENCY IS KEY
But just like strength training or any form of exercise, you’ve got to keep up with it to realize the benefits. You’d never run 5 kilometres and call it good for an upcoming marathon would you?
Same with stretching – in order to prevent a loss of flexibility, it needs to be ongoing for your connective tissues to benefit over time.
Elasticity is one of those health-related concepts that like many others, abides by the “use it or lose it” paradigm. You’re not going to stay flexible if you don’t continuously stretch.
And yes, I hear you. You’re already busy working out and you don’t have time. Here’s what I propose – if you watch TV or read at night, get on the floor and stretch. Stand up at work and stretch (this will also improve blood flow to your brain, improve attention, and lower your blood pressure, to name a few benefits!) Go to a yoga or stretch class at least once per week.
If you do two to three focused stretching sessions a week you’ll have less muscle tension, your workouts will go smoother, you’ll have fewer aches and pains and injuries over time!
Why HYDRATION is Also KEY
By now you’ve long heard the importance of hydration. But did you know the health of your connective tissue is highly dependent on water? Here’s why – cartilage, tendons and ligaments have a very poor blood supply.
Because of this they are dependent on fluid that bathes them for nutrient delivery and removal.
Additionally, the structure of connective tissue is similar to a sponge – its designed to attract and hold on to water. When connective tissue is well hydrated, it stays refreshed and elastic. When deprived of fluids, they are like any thing else that depends on water – they dry out, shrink and crack.
Keeping up on overall hydration will keep your connective tissues healthier over time.