Six ways to keep flexible
Feeling a bit creaky in your joints? While stiffness is a natural consequence of ageing, staying supple will help you remain active and ward off aches and injury, says health writer Amy Abrahams. “Maintaining flexibility into later life and having mobility in joints really has a beneficial impact on quality of life,” says osteopath Stephen Makinde, founder of Perfect Balance Clinic. Here's how to add more flex:
1. Focus on your back
Sit down a lot? “Stretching your chest and upper back will help posture and prevent a stooped back,” says musculoskeletal physiotherapist Kedar Kale from Crushes Manor Clinic. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and your back against a wall. Push back shoulders as if you're trying to get your shoulder blades towards your spine. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds: repeat five times.
2. Strike a yoga pose
Yoga boosts flexibility and balance. “One of the things I see that makes the biggest difference is when people do regular morning stretches – so yoga is a good addition to assist in keeping mobile,” says Makinde. Find a local class and benefit from the social aspect, or check out YouTube for videos catering to all levels to try at home.
3. Stretch those calves
“This is essential for good lower-limb circulation and assisting in the hip movement,” says Kale. Stand facing a wall with one leg stretched behind you, heel on floor and knee straight. Bend the front leg and gently lunge until you feel a calf stretch. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds: repeat five times. As an extra, push the buttock of the back leg slightly forwards for a front hip stretch.
4. Eat well for your joints
While no one food will fast-track you to flexibility, combine healthy eating with exercise and you’re onto a winner. Dose up on omega 3-rich oily fish, said to help reduce inflammation or flaxseeds and walnuts for a plant-based source of good fatty acids. And look for foods high in antioxidant-rich flavonoids, such as berries, which have anti-inflammatory, weight-stabilizing properties.
5. Don't neglect your neck
“Maintaining your neck’s range of movement will help posture and assist in functional activities, such as driving,” says Kale. Sit on a chair without slouching or leaning forwards. If you are standing, ensure your chin is not poking forwards. Gently turn your neck to one side and hold for 10 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
6. Move, often
Whether it’s swimming, walking or resistance training, exercise will keep your joints in good working order. “Movement produces a lubricating fluid called synovial fluid. This helps the joint in much the same way as oil in a hinge – without it, the joint becomes worn quickly and seizes up,” says Makinde. So ultimately, get active now to stay active in the long term.