We all know that strength and flexibility start to fade as we reach our later years. The “use it or lose it” principle maintains that to remain flexible and toned, a combination of high intensity and low intensity training is required. If you wish to maintain muscle mass, lifting vigorously is the prescribed method.
It is important that there is symmetry and balance in the body, for example, if you are training the chest muscles you must also train the back muscles as they all support each other. When working the legs using resistance training, a more noticeable growth will be seen in the hamstrings because there is more room for growth in that area than in the quadriceps which are used more during daily activities.
Muscles have a great deal of plasticity even amongst ageing groups thus it is possible to continue to gain strength as you age so long as the activities undertaken are changing and varied (otherwise developments will plateau out and little or no improvement will be seen).
So what does that mean for you? Well, by adding some variety to your fitness regime you are going to gain a greater level of strength than if you just did the same exercises all the time so get creative with your workout! It can also help with your physical health as your muscles become stronger, meaning less trips to the physio!
Most physiotherapists will tell you that flexibility is the key goal as you age, and stretching is the activity to reach it! If you’re lacking in flexibility, it can result in poor posture, difficulty carrying out daily activities such as bending, turning, and reaching due to such stiffness/tightness of muscles and an increased likelihood of injury due to forced muscle. This is why bad flexibility and lack of stretching is an issue that must be addressed sooner rather than later. Don’t wait until you’re in pain, save yourself the months of physio by stretching every day!
Good flexibility results in better circulation, healthy muscles and joints, easier reaction in strenuous situations, the ability to participate in more physical and recreational activities, ability to carry out more day-to-day activities with ease, graceful body movement and good posture, psychological benefits such as better self confidence and feelings of well-being, helps with recovery, prevents/assists back pain. Long term benefits of yoga have shown psychological improvements over a span of 6 months from a single yoga session; stretching also helps with menstrual cramps and other muscular cramps.
If you do decide you need to visit a physio, make sure you do some research into the local physiotherapists in your area as the quality of service can vary greatly. My family and I have been long time customers of Elliot Campbell, a Brisbane based physio who will come to you, perfect if you’re in a great deal of pain and can’t drive to receive treatment.
DO NOT OVER STRETCH: We are born with our flexibility abilities (genetic factor) however whether we maintain this flexibility or not determines the range of motion we can comfortably achieve. People who are genetically quite flexible must be wary of over-stretching as they are more prone to dislocation, particularly of large joints such as those of the hips, shoulder and knees. Stable joints are essential.
WARM UP & WARM DOWN: Warm-up exercises result in better flexibility whereas cooler conditions affect flexibility negatively. Thus people often prefer to stretch after aerobic phases. Women generally have better flexibility than men, this is because of the female hormones. Especially during pregnancy, the high levels of progesterone which prepare the woman for child birth contribute to flexibility in every muscle. Because of this, pregnant women must be especially careful of dislocation.