Flexibility: Move It or Lose It!

If you’ve ever gotten off track with exercise and struggled with getting back to your usual routine, you know this drill of then and now: You committed to keeping fit, with a regimen that you’ve enjoyed, and reaped its benefits. But over time, life has gotten in the way with a lack of time and energy (plus some added weight), along with a beckoning couch after a long day at work, lengthy commute, or driving the kids to activities. You know you feel and look better when you exercise, but having the energy to start it up again is, well, another story.

The fact is, when you haven’t exercised for a while, your muscles can atrophy or become less effective due to lack of use. You can lose muscle tone, flexibility, and strength that you had gained by moving. Your posture can suffer, too, especially if you do a lot of sitting, because you’re likely giving in to more of a slouch position that can impact your neck, shoulders, and hips. This only makes you feel more tired.

Whether it’s isolating and stretching certain muscles (like those in the neck and shoulders) at your desk for 15 to 30 seconds in intervals a few times a day, doing basic body stretching at home on the floor or outside, or exploring yoga for its breathing, flexibility, and meditative qualities, gentle stretching (without bouncing!) can start to ease you back into moving.

Daily stretching can:

  • Allow flexibility to flourish, improving the range of joint motion (like in knees and hips)
  • Enhance athletic performance and decrease injuries
  • Increase blood flow and oxygen to the muscles to aid in healing and recovery time
  • Minimize stress
  • Boost quality of life and longevity

Always move around a bit to warm up first; never stretch cold muscles! Then transition to gentle stretching. Ask your doctor about incorporating moderate aerobic (adults: 150 minutes per week), core, and strength training back into your routine. Don’t be too hard on yourself; no one expects you to be an Olympian! But make a pact with you to move it or lose it! Getting your flexibility back is key to getting back on track. Now is always the best time!

By Lisa Miceli Feliciano

Visit www.mayoclinic.org for home and office stretching exercises.


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