How to maintain (and improve) your mobility as you age

We all know how good it feels to stretch. But what is stretching – really?

In my practice as a Kinesiologist, I often encounter individuals who appear unusually stiff. Upon inquiry, most defer their stiffness to natural signs of aging. However, aging plays a lesser role in our movement restriction than we think. So then, what is limiting once limber bodies?

The answer is mobility and flexibility.

Flexibility and mobility – what are they and what’s the difference?

As we age, our priorities change and we don’t always maintain our physical activities. In this way, we often lose the strength required to maintain healthy ranges of motion across our joints. Even those who are hypermobile when younger can find themselves in this predicament. In often cases, this issue may be caused by a lack of flexibility and mobility.

Flexibility is the lengthening of our muscles, tendons, fascia and other connective tissues over one or a series of joints. Therefore, flexibility governs how much range of motion we have available within a joint.

Mobility, on the other hand, depicts the ability to move through one’s permitted range of motion over one or various joints in control. Thus, the active application of strength is necessary to move the joint(s) in question within the realm of one’s flexibility.

As an example, your flexibility allows you to sit comfortably on the curb of a sidewalk. However, that may not mean that you have the necessary mobility to gracefully squat down to a similar depth, as this requires ample strength, balance and control over various joints of our bodies.

Keys to resilient and graceful aging

As we grow older, we all strive to age gracefully and be robust enough to weather life’s many challenges. Studies show that a well-planned exercise routine consisting of cardiovascular and muscular conditioning, as well as mobility and stretching exercises can be instrumental in achieving our fitness goals.

While most of us are aware that cardiovascular training and muscular strength and conditioning need to be included in any healthy exercise plan, what is more commonly missed are mobility and flexibility training.

Mobility and flexibility training are what allow us to use our available ranges of motion to do our favourite activities, and stay healthy doing them. For example, a great set of stretching exercises before and after any strenuous physical activities is vital to maintaining and improving flexibility.

Stretching prior to engaging in a physical activity should be kept within 30 seconds per muscle group as it prepares the muscles to meet their respective lengths of elongation during the physical activity. Consider doing a dynamic stretching routine as it involves bodily movements that explore the different ranges of motion across the joints of your body. Post-exercise stretching should be held for longer than 30 seconds per muscle group in order to reduce muscle soreness and stiffness. All stretching should be done in a slow, gradual manner.

To learn more about how you can stay flexible and keep moving, speak to a Copeman kinesiologist.