How Aging Affects Flexibility
Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.
I have often wondered if we keep practicing yoga, will we be able to maintain or improve our flexibility as we age?
So I decided to do some quick research on the web, and generally the conclusion is that the older we become, the longer it will take to develop flexibility. Hopefully, we all become more patient when we get older.
With appropriate training, flexibility can be developed at all ages, although this does not suggest that flexibility can be developed at the same rate by everyone.
One of the reasons we become less flexible as we get older is a result of certain changes that take place in our connective tissues.
There are suggestions that exercise can delay the loss of flexibility due process of dehydration as we age. Stretching stimulates the production of lubricants between the connective tissue fibers and thus prevents the adhesion formation.
Most experts believe that an increase in the ability of muscle and connective tissues to elongate/stretch can be achieved at any age.
When connective tissues are underused, they provide significant resistance to stretching and limit flexibility. Elastin begins to fray and loses some of its elasticity, and the collagen increases in stiffness and in density.
Aging has some of the same effect on connective tissues that lack of use has.
Note that if connective tissues are overused, they may also become fatigued and tear.
Everyone has different levels of flexibility in different areas of the body. Depending on the type of joint and its condition, the bone structure of the joint places limits on flexibility. This is a common way in which age can be a factor limiting flexibility since older joints tend not to be as healthy as younger ones.
Other physical changes attributed to aging include:
- Increased calcium deposits, adhesions, and cross-links in the body
- An increase in the level of fragmentation and dehydration
- Changes in the chemical structure of tissues
- Loss of suppleness due to the replacement of muscle fibers with fatty, collagenous fibers.
This does not mean that we should give up trying to achieve flexibility if we are old or inflexible. It just means that we need to work harder and more carefully when attempting to increase flexibility.