You may have noticed a few of the signs already. Maybe when you get up in the morning, you're stiffer than you used to be. Or your knees get achy after sitting awhile.
Over time, everyone's body ages and shows signs from natural wear and tear. Regular exercise helps delay the process. However, many people forget to include mobility exercises in their routine.
Both flexibility and mobility are important to how your body functions. Flexibility refers to the ability to move a joint through the full range of motion, or fully lengthen a muscle. Mobility involves a bit more. It includes flexibility, as well as strength, coordination and balance.
Staying active and preserving mobility are important as you age.Here are three ways you can make sure your body can stay in motion for a long time to come:
Stretch every day
Simple stretching can increase your range of motion and decrease pain in conditions like rotator cuff tendinopathy. The great thing about stretching is that you can do it anywhere, and it only takes a few seconds to a few minutes.
There are three types of basic stretches. You can choose to focus on increasing flexibility or you can work on mobility, too.
Static stretching — You probably learned this style in middle school. (Think standing toe touch and thigh stretch.) Static stretching increases flexibility by putting light tension on a muscle and holding the position for 30-60 seconds. Be sure not to bounce. It's best to warm up first before attempting this type of stretch.
Isometric stretching — In this type of stretching, you get into a static stretch position, then gently contract the stretched muscle. Keep the length of the muscle and the angle of the joint steady. Hold for 10-15 seconds then relax your muscle for about 20 seconds or more, then repeat. Isometric stretching increases strength and flexibility.
Dynamic stretching — When you roll your neck, do walking lunges or arm windmills, you're doing dynamic stretching. A dynamic stretch takes a specific movement and allows the joints and muscles to move through their full range of motion.
Dynamic stretching is controlled and smooth. It's a great way to warm up before exercising and helps increase range of motion.
When beginning a stretching routine, remember to take it slow. Stretching too quickly and too far can trigger your body's defense mechanisms to protect itself from tearing joints and muscles. Stretch just until you feel tension. If you feel pain, you've gone too far.
Discover foam roller self-massage.
They cost as little as $10 and come in many lengths and densities. A foam roller is an easy and convenient way to release tension in muscles and connective tissue, which helps increase flexibility and improve mobility.
For beginners, a medium foam roller may be most comfortable.
Use your body's natural movement
Using your body's natural movements can increase your mobility, stability and balance. Plus, it adds a little playfulness into your day. One example of a "natural movement" activity is crawling. Getting down on all fours strengthens and mobilizes just about every muscle and joint in your body. Climbing, carrying, throwing and catching (safely and gently, of course) are other ways to keep yourself supple.
However you choose to move, remember to breathe freely, start slow, be gentle, and don't bounce.
Perhaps most important: Find stretches and other activities you actually like to do that fit into your daily routine. That's the best way to guarantee you'll stick with a more flexible way of life.
Whether you're traveling for business or pleasure, you don't have to leave your workout routine behind. Try these tips for making exercise a part of the adventure.
The common cold doesn't have to keep you on the sidelines. Mild to moderate exercise is usually OK if your symptoms are all above the neck, such as a runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing or minor sore throat. However, if your symptoms are below the neck, such as chest congestion, a hacking cough or upset stomach, delay your workout. And don't exercise if you have a fever, fatigue or widespread muscle aches.
When it comes to exercise, the "No pain, no gain" mantra is bad advice. Exercise shouldn't hurt. At most, you may feel a little muscle soreness when you do a new workout or activity. If you feel pain, dizziness, nausea or shortness of breath during exercise, stop. You may be pushing yourself too hard.
Are you hoping that exercise will help you lose weight? Boost your energy? Sleep better? Manage a chronic condition? Improve your mood? Write it down! Seeing the benefits of regular exercise on paper may help you stay motivated.
After you exercise, take a few minutes to savor the good feelings that exercise creates. Reflect on what you've just accomplished. This type of internal reward can help you make a long-term commitment to regular exercise. External rewards can help, too. When you reach a longer range goal, treat yourself to a new pair of walking shoes or new tunes to enjoy while you exercise.
Is a gym membership or home exercise equipment too pricey? Consider cheaper options for getting in shape. You can base a fitness program around brisk daily walks for aerobic exercise and pushups or squats for strength training. Or consider picking up some inexpensive hand-held weights or resistance bands. Check the local recreation department to see if they offer discounted fitness classes.
Exercise doesn't have to be drudgery. And you don't need to go it alone. Sign up for a group exercise class or join a softball, soccer or volleyball team. Work out with a friend at a health club or gym. Start a walking group with friends and neighbors.
When it comes to fitness, huffing and puffing your way through such aerobic exercises as running, biking or swimming isn't the only thing that matters. A good, balanced exercise program includes five key components: aerobic fitness, strength training, core exercises, balance training, and flexibility and stretching. If you're not getting all five, it's time to mix up your routine.
You don't need a gym membership to get in shape. You can fit physical activity into your daily life by doing things you enjoy outside of the gym. Play pickup basketball, go biking or walk around the park. Lift some hand weights while you watch your favorite TV show. Take the stairs at work or when shopping. Or take an exercise class through your community.
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