Men and women may begin to feel less flexible as they get older. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, that loss of flexibility is due to muscles losing both strength and elasticity as the body ages.
While people might not be able to maintain the flexibility they enjoyed in their 20s, there are ways for them to combat age-related loss of flexibility, such as the following:
■ Stretch frequently. Stretching is a great way to combat age-related loss of flexibility. Stretch major muscle groups, such as hamstrings and shoulder muscles, several times per week. When practicing static stretching, the goal is to gradually elongate the muscle being stretched before holding the elongated position, and ultimately allowing the muscle to return to resting position. As flexibility improves, elongated stretches can be held for 30 seconds. Avoid stretching muscles that are sore or injured and discontinue a stretch if you feel pain or discomfort.
■ Include yoga in your exercise regimen. Practitioners of yoga typically love how this unique discipline that exercises the body while relaxing the mind improves their flexibility. Many yoga poses are designed to improve the strength and flexibility of muscles, and some physicians may even recommend yoga to aging patients. Yoga DVDs or streaming sessions can be great, but beginners may want to visit yoga studios or sign up for classes at their gyms so instructors can personally ensure they are doing each pose correctly. As their flexibility improves, men and women can try more difficult poses and classes if they so desire.
■ Get in the pool. Swimming is another activity that can help aging men and women improve their flexibility. Strength-training exercises are an important component of a well-balanced exercise regimen, but such workouts tend to focus on one or two muscle groups at a time. That means other muscle groups may be inactive and tighten up as a result. Swimming works the entire body, which helps all muscle groups stay loose and flexible. One or two swimming sessions per week can contribute to great gains in overall flexibility, especially for men and women who remember to stretch when they get out of the pool.