Take 20 minutes every morning and stretch your body and get the circulation flowing.
As we get older, the emphasis on staying limber and flexible have to move up on our staying healthy list. It’s obvious when we see that poor senior citizen slouched over and looking as stiff as a board, that we have to do everything we can to prevent this from happening to us. Of course, our body isn’t able to do a lot of things it used to in our younger years. I never groaned while bending over to tie my shoes when I was younger. Now without thinking when I get up off the couch or bend over that dreaded groan comes out. This happens because I’m 47 years old and I’m starting to stiffen up. I may do more than the average person when it comes to stretching, and I’ve dabbled with yoga over the years. But I know I need to do more. It’s that vanity thing where I would rather do the push ups and pull ups to make my body look good. What the point of looking good if you can’t bend over to tie your shoes.
Your 40s mark the decade when you shift to caring for your body in the gym, instead of punishing it. “Your joints need sustained attention,” says David Pearson, Ph.D., an associate professor of exercise science at Ball State University. Your nerve fibers are losing their effectiveness, which diminishes coordination, says Doyle. Your heart beats more slowly, cutting down the bloodflow that delivers nutrients to and removes waste from joints and muscles. And you’re losing about 0.5 percent of your muscle mass a year. To reverse these processes and stretch peak performance, your workouts now emphasize flexibility.
You deserve it. Inhale and focus on yourself. “Yoga is especially beneficial for men in their 40s, because that’s when flexibility declines more,” says Mehmet Oz, M.D., a professor of surgery at Columbia University and coauthor of You: The Owner’s Manual. New science shows that doing yoga can improve flexibility, relieve back pain, and reduce stress. Oh, about that yoga glow: Boston University researchers report that people who did yoga weekly boosted levels of the brain chemical GABA by 27 percent. Low levels of GABA have been linked to anxiety. Practicing yoga can also help your body maintain its antioxidant levels, which deplete when you’re run down, report Indian researchers.
My big plans include doing a lot more yoga and eventually become a yoga instructor. That yoga glow I’ve felt after a great yoga session. Feeling like you’re as light as a feather and just floating as you walk. This is how we can feel all the time as long as our body remains flexible and limber.
Here’s how it works: When you stretch a muscle, you lengthen the tendons, or muscle fibers, that attach it to the bone. The longer these fibers are, the more you can increase the muscle in size when you do your strength training. That means that a more flexible muscle has the potential to become a stronger muscle, too. In turn, building strong muscle fibers may boost your metabolism and your fitness level. Flexible muscles also make everyday activities easier on your body and may decrease your risk of certain injuries. Common behaviors, like hunching over the computer, can shorten some muscles. That, along with the natural loss of muscle elasticity that occurs with aging, can set you up so any quick or awkward motion (lunging to catch a glass before it teeters off the table, for example) could stretch your muscles beyond their limit, resulting in a strain or a tear. “Even if you’re aerobically fit, it helps to be limber, too, so your body can easily adapt to physical stressors,” says Margot Miller, a physical therapist in Duluth, Minnesota, and a spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association.
It’s best to start off slow. Try to dedicate 10 to 15 minutes. It’s a healthy habit with huge benefits as we grow older. Once you work up to it, you must stretch every day for 15 minutes. If morning doesn’t work for you, take 45 minutes at lunch instead of an hour, and use the other 15 to stretch. You can break the stretching regimen up over the course of the day and do one body part at a time.
For people under 65 years old, maximum benefit is achieved with a slow muscle stretch until the muscle feels tight but doesn’t hurt. Once you reach this place, hold the stretch for 30 seconds without bouncing. After 30 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, and then repeat the stretch for a maximum of four repetitions. If you are older than 65, you need to hold the stretch for 60 seconds. It takes about six weeks of consistent stretching to see good results, and then you must maintain your muscle length by continuing daily stretches.
Although countless studies have shown how beneficial exercise is for your body and mind (it may do everything from reducing the risk of some cancers to helping improve memory), less attention has been paid to flexibility. But doctors and physical therapists agree that it’s a vital part of keeping your body fit and able. “Flexibility is the third pillar of fitness, next to cardiovascular conditioning and strength training,” says David Geier, the director of sports medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina, in Charleston, and a spokesperson for the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. In fact, flexibility can help your body reach its optimum fitness level, may play a role in injury prevention, and can even contribute to staving off conditions like arthritis and more serious illnesses.
Just a reminder, my goal with take20today.com is to help busy people better themselves by taking a minuscule amount of time to become healthier. I’ll never quit working out and trying to stay in shape but staying limber and flexible from this day forward will be number one on my list.