Stay Supple with Stretching
Inevitably with time, things change. You feel a bit stiffer in the mornings; your joints are a little creaky; a glimpsed reflection in a window reveals you’re not as straight as you thought. Inevitably with time, things change. You feel a bit stiffer in the mornings; your joints are a little creaky; a glimpsed reflection in a window reveals you’re not as strai Tight muscles may begin to affect your gait. If your hips and ankles are stiff, your stride becomes shorter and there is less natural bounce when walking, jogging or dancing.
Decreased flexibility may be a common aspect of aging, but it is one that you can do something about, no matter what your age. Just a few minutes of daily stretching can help maintain flexibility, which in turn keeps the muscles supple and counteracts the wear and tear of everyday life, allowing you to maintain a youthful appearance and active lifestyle. By enhancing your mobility, stretching increases your efficiency in all activities so that they require less effort and leave you feeling less tired
Your ability to stretch depends on genetics as well as your daily habits. The unique structure of bones and the length of the soft tissue (muscles, tendons and ligaments) surrounding them determine the joints’ range of movement. Some joints, like those affected by arthritis, may be “stiff” or restricted; others like those of a contortionist, “loose” or hypermobile. If your joints are stiff, do range of motion exercises to keep them limber. If they are loose, work on strengthening the muscles around them to provide more stability.
If you find you’re not standing as tall as you once were, gravity may be partly to blame. The constant downward pull of gravity combined with gradual dehydration of the body’s tissues cause us literally to shrink over time, but stretching can help by lengthening the muscles. To come to your full height, lengthen the spine by separating the ribs from the hips and lifting the top of the head to the ceiling.
There is a natural tendency for some muscles to be short and tight, while others are prone to being long and weak. Stretching can help offset this imbalance and improve your alignment, as in correcting the “forward slouch.” This is a typical posture of aging that develops from our everyday habits: upper back rounded, shoulders hunched, and the head forward of the body. The remedy is to stretch the chest and shoulders and re-align the head by strengthening the neck and back muscles.
Evening is the perfect time of day to show your muscles some stretching love! Here’s an easy head-to-toes routine you can do sitting on the couch in front of the TV. As you discharge tension from your neck and shoulders, and stretch out the tight muscles in your arms and legs, it helps your body relax and prepare for a good night’s sleep. Make it a habit!
Here are some end of Day Couch Stretches.
Joan Pagano is the author of best-selling fitness books, including the new release Strength Training Exercises for Women (DK, 2014), an informational speaker on health and fitness topics and the owner of Joan Pagano Fitness in New York City. Former trainer to Jacqueline Onassis and Caroline Kennedy, Joan has specialized in strength training for women since 1988. She is an authority on the benefits of exercise for women's health issues such as menopause, osteoporosis and breast cancer, as well as strength training through the decades. Joan is the proud finisher of seven marathons and a member of the Shaker Heights High School Alumni Hall of Fame.
Visit Joan at: www.joanpaganofitness.com/