As we get older most of us begin to notice changes in our bodies — we’re not as flexible as we use to be, our joints ache and feel stiff and our range of motion for completing even basic daily tasks sometimes decreases. Decreased mobility is a common symptom of the natural aging process, and something that most people do with during their lives. But, just because it’s normal and common you don’t have to let it happen! There are many, many things you can do to preserve and even improve your mobility as you age. In addition to a healthy, well-balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, protein and essential fatty acids, there are a number of exercises you can do on a regular basis to help with mobility issues.
Strength training a few times a week is essential for strengthening and conditioning your muscles so that less strain is put on bones and joints during regular, everyday activities. Depending on your fitness level, you can choose calisthenics like squats and planks or weight lifting, or even a combination of both. If you don’t already have a regular fitness routine, it’s important to start slowly and build up as you get stronger in order to avoid injury.
A lot of us — especially those of us who work at computers — experience stiffness in our necks. The easiest way to combat this is by doing gentle neck circles whenever your neck is feeling uncomfortable. Slowly drop your chin to your chest, then move your neck in a circular motion clockwise back to the middle and then counter-clockwise and repeat as necessary. You can also try working your neck in circles of various sizes from smallest to full range of motion.
Tight calves can affect even the most basic tasks like walking to your car in the morning. To loosen up your calves and keep them loose, stand with your hands flat on a wall about shoulder distance apart and looking straight ahead and slowly rise up onto your toes then gently lower back down and repeat.
Butterfly stretch — also known as cobbler’s pose in yoga — is an excellent and efficient hip opener. Simply sit down on the floor (you can sit up against a wall if you need more support) or even on your bed or couch and draw your feet up towards your hips — soles together, knees out, back straight — and breathe deeply. As your flexibility increases and your hips loosen up from repeated practice you will be able to begin lowering your head towards your feet to increase your mobility even further and enjoy a nice spine stretch.
Lots of people — young and older — suffer from shoulder tightness. Simple shoulder circles are an effective remedy. Raise your arms out to your sides so that your body is in a letter “t” position and move them in circles starting small and growing larger, first one way and then the other.
Remember when you were a kid and you used to see how long you could sit in a squatting position? Remember how flexible you were when you were a kid? Practicing static squats can help you regain some of that mobility and it feels great. Drop your body slowly down into a low squat (thing frog legs) and bring your heels as close to the floor as possible without causing discomfort. Remain in position as long as you can. You can perform the squat with your back towards a wall or with a yoga block for added stability and control.