Staying Flexible as you Age

by Valerie Demetros

Staying healthy while aging is essential, and one important factor for a long life is flexibility.

While aging, your muscle mass drops and tendons become stiff. It can then be harder to function, whether carrying groceries, climbing stairs or tying your shoes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that more than 1 out of 4 older adults fall each year in the U.S., making falls the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries to older Americans.

In Brazil, researchers came up with a simple test to determine flexibility, regardless of age. The test is now used in many European countries to determine flexibility and health in people over 30. You may want to give it a try.

Sit on the floor. Now, rise to a standing position without using your hands. If you can’t, your life expectancy is substantially less compared to someone who can.

If you’re worried about whether you can complete the test, here are a few exercises to build your flexibility. Aim for three sets, three times a week.

Squat

Stand with your feet hip-width apart, toes turned out slightly. Keep your arms at your sides or in front of you and your back straight. Hinge at the hips, shifting them back and down. As you lower your hips, your knees will bend and start to shift forward; try to prevent them from traveling too far forward past your toes.

Lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the floor, or as far as you are comfortable. Return to the starting position slowly. If you need help in the beginning, squat until sitting in a chair and then stand up. Your hips and torso should rise together. Repeat 10 to 15 times for 1 set. For a challenge, hold light dumbbells.

Glute activation lunge

Stand with feet together and arms raised in front of you. Stand straight. Step your right foot across your body to the 3 o’clock position. Lunge by bending at the hips until your right knee is directly over the second toe of your right foot and your left knee is bent.

As you lunge, rotate your arms and torso in the opposite direction of the lunge. Finally, push off with your front leg and return upright. Do 10 to 15 reps with each leg.

Pushup

Pushups boost your core strength, which you need to get up off the ground.

Lie on your stomach with your hands directly under your shoulders. Tuck your toes under and slowly lift your torso and thighs, keeping them rigid.

Slowly lower your chest toward the floor. For beginners, start on your knees or use a wall or bench. Repeat 10 to 15 times.

Contralateral limb raises

Lie on your stomach with your legs behind you and arms stretched out in front (like Superman). Keep your head aligned with your spine and slowly bring one arm and the opposite leg a few inches off the floor. Keep your arm and leg straight and don’t arch your back.

Hold briefly and return to the starting position. Switch sides for one rep and repeat 10 to 15 times.

Note: Never force a stretch or bounce into it. Don’t lock your joints, and keep breathing. You’ll be popping up off the ground without your hands in no time.