Use it or Lose it – How stretching can help us maintain flexibility as we grow older

Feb 7, 2012 by

I was reading the newspaper today and there was a feature on Madonna appearing at the half-time interval during the NFL Superbowl. The article was actually all about a rude gesture made by rapper MIA, however that is not what got my attention. It was the comment by the journalist that Madonna’s movements in her performance were somewhat ‘deliberate’ and that ‘she was 53 after all. The comment read as though 53 was ancient and we all know that is not true. I know how much Madonna works out and how fit she is so I clicked on the you tube video to watch for myself.

Well, sure enough, I think her movements were a little ‘deliberate’ and she did appear to lose her balance a couple of times but how much was due to the need to sing at the same time versus feeling a little stiff and wobbly only Madonna knows. However, it got me thinking about the things I used to get up to as a kid, for example I used to do back flips into the pool and delight in getting the perfect backward dive. Could I do that now? Probably not, even if I did pluck up courage to give it a go. Why can’t I do it? Simply because I stopped doing it and as the years went by it became impossible to do anymore. If you watch small children play you cannot help but notice how supple and flexible they are. When was the last time you sucked your big toe?

We talk about keeping fit but I think sometimes we are so intent on cardio-vascular exercise we forget how important it is to stretch and move outside our normal range. Stretching is important before and after physical exertion but more than that I believe we should make extending our movements part of everyday activity. In our day to day lives we walk around, we sit in desks, we do things with our hands and occasionally we might bend over to pick something up or reach for something on a shelf . If you really think about it we typically move 90% of the time within a very limited range. Even those of us like me who cycle, run and swim are actually still moving within confined limits.

Some forms of exercise are less about cardio vascular exertion and more about flexibility, pilates and yoga to mention the obvious ones. These are great forms of exercise but many of us do not find the time, the money or prefer other sports.

Even if we do not go to formal classes I believe we should stretch and move our limbs and torso to our fullest extent each and every day.

Kick your legs up high and wide, stretch your arms above your head,behind your back, bend down and touch your toes several times, twist your body around and stretch your neck up and down. Just make these movements part of everyday life when in the shower, in the kitchen, watching tv, anytime at all and ensure that you keep a full range of movement for as long as possible. Build them up gradually so you can do more and stretch further. If you make these movements part of your daily life rather than a separate time you need to set aside you will be far more successful at keeping it up.

If you are interested to see whether you think Madonna is moving more ‘deliberately’ these days check it out below.

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