Flexibility with age depends on exercising these three joints


Flexibility with age depends on exercising these three joints

To age gracefully while maintaining good flexibility takes effort.  Very few if any of us, especially after the age of 50, will naturally retain the flexibility we may have enjoyed in our youth unless we work at it. And to lose your flexibility means a greater likelihood of injury from simple tasks such as reaching for an item on a high shelf or being unable to catch ourselves from an accidental fall.

That’s why three joints in your body especially need to be kept in tip top shape for good flexibility.  These three joints are the following:

1. Shoulders

2. Knees

3. Ankles

Why would flexibility depend on strong joints?  First know that a joint is where two bones meet.  Bones are connected to each other by dense white tissues called ligaments.  Muscles are connected to bone by thick tendons at each end of the muscle. As you get older, these white tissues tend to contract, or shrink. This makes the joint still and harder to move, limiting its range of motion.

When your range of motion falters, you are forced to make smaller movements which can be a setup for injury. If the joint is accidentally stretched past its limited range of motion, the non-pliable and brittle connective tissue may sprain or tear. This happens often particularly in people past the age of 50 whose range of motion has reduced over the years and they suffer a sprain or tear a ligament or tendon.

To prevent this scenario, you will need to be dedicated to working on stretching and moving every joint in your body three of four times a week. This helps keep your tissues more pliable and easy to move resulting in less pain and far fewer injuries. By maintaining the flexibility of your shoulders, knees, and ankles, you will also move more effortlessly with a youthful spring in your step without any limitation.

3 joints to exercise keeping you flexible

The following three joints are important to exercise throughout your life in order to preserve functioning and flexibility.  For anyone who already has lost range of motion or has a current or previous injury with any of these joints, be sure to discuss with your doctor before performing any of the exercises suggested.

1.  Shoulder joints

     One of the most complex joints in the human body is our shoulders.  When compared to joints such as the knee or elbow – which can only flex and extend – our shoulders are the most flexible joint in the body allowing quite a bit of free movement.  Our shoulders are a complex arrangement of ligaments, tendons, and muscle keeping the bones in place creating a delicate balance of free movement, allowing the joint to flex, abduct, adduct, internally rotate, and externally rotate.  Sometimes we forgot just how important our shoulders are in that they give us the ability to reach overhead, to the side, across the body, behind the back, and everywhere in between. 

 However, their incredible flexibility also makes them the most commonly injured joint as almost every one of us will experience some kind of shoulder issue during our lifetime.  This is because of the uniqueness and complexity of the shoulder that on the one hand, makes it the joint with the greatest range of motion, but on the other, the joint with the least stability.

Like any joint or muscle in the body, our shoulders need a regular workout preventing them from stiffness, soreness, or injury from inactivity. To keep our shoulders in good working condition, here are some stretches to try out:

·      Cross-body stretch – Gently pull each arm across your chest.  Hold for 10 seconds.

·      Lateral walk-ups – Stand next to a door or wall and use your fingers to slowly walk your arm upward.

·      Shoulder blade squeezes – While sitting or standing, push your chest our and squeeze your shoulder blades together.  Hold for 10 seconds.

Do these stretches every day along with shoulder-strengthening exercises to minimize the possibility of a shoulder injury.

2. Knee joint

     Good knee health should not be taken for granted.  Our knees take on its fair share of impacts throughout each day.  As the largest joint in the body, painful knees are common, especially after the age of 40.

As we age, the bones in our knees will suffer from overall wear and tear as a result of many factors:

·      Improper lifting of heavy objects

·      Poor fitting shoes

·      Muscle weakness

·      Poor flexibility

·      Starting high-impact fitness without warming up

·      Structural knee problems such as arthritis, torn cartilage, ligament damage, bursitis, meniscus tears, and tendonitis

·      tears, and tendonitis

Preserving your knee health is crucial for being able to remain physically active as long as you can.  Many people assume knee aches and pains are part of getting older and that eventually a knee replacement will be inevitable, but they don’t have to be.  There are several things you can do keeping your knees strong, sturdy, and pain free:

Certain exercises support good knee health without putting too much force on them.  For example, by performing simple leg lifts, you can strengthen the muscles around your knee.  When these muscles are strong, they support more of your body weight to take the impact off your knee when walking or engaging in other activities.  Also having strong muscles within the inner thigh and hip abductors are crucial for absorbing stress when you walk, reducing strain on your knees.

Having proper alignment of your knees is necessary for helping this joint work at its best.  This can be achieved by performing simple calf raises which strengthen your ankles to help keep knees in proper alignment.

However, be careful to avoid exercises that subject your knees to too much force.  Good examples would be overdoing squats or lunges.  Squats and lunges are great exercises for the lower body but don’t bend your leg beyond a 90-degree angle and make sure your knee stays directly over your foot and does not extend beyond your big toe. 

3.  Ankle joints

     You might not give much thought to the health of your feet and ankles, but it's crucial to your mobility and independence. If you can't walk, you may not be able to enjoy your favorite activities, let alone perform the routine activities of daily living such as standing up to cook a meal or walking to a bathroom. Immobility will also prevent you from exercising. Exercise is essential for maintaining ankle strength and health.  Here is an excellent video showing you how to enhance and maintain flexibility of your ankles.