It happens so slowly you don’t always notice it: as you age, your range of motion has a natural tendency to decrease. You may see that you have a harder time reaching behind you, for instance, to get your glasses off the counter. Or, when you drop something, simply bending over to pick it up isn’t as easy as it used to be.
As you get up there in years, you find that you can’t get down there quite as easily as you could when you were younger!
While that’s the bad news, the good news is this: it’s not inevitable. A combination of targeted physical activities and dietary changes can stave off stiffness and improve your active range of motion.
A few of the things that can help you get your range of motion back…
Get in some regular stretching.
Stretching is the best thing that you can do to keep or expand your range of motion. It just makes sense: the more you work on expanding the limits on how far you can stretch, the more flexibility you will have.
There are a couple of different types of stretches you can do, and each one of them has a different benefit. Static stretches are stretches where you assume and hold a pose for a period of time. Static stretches can stretch one area at a time or several at once. Try to maintain a pose for at least 30 seconds. A minute is even better. Don’t overdo it; you should feel a bit of mild discomfort, but no actual pain. If you have an exercise routine, static stretches are best near the end of it when muscles are warm.
Dynamic stretches are ones where you move throughout your normal range of movement. An excellent example of a dynamic stretch is a walking lunge; you step into the stretch as you perform it. These are good to include before you start exercising so that you can open up your range of motion before you get going.
If you can’t do a lot of stretching right now, that’s okay. Look online to learn about modifications for stretches and other exercises. By starting small, you can increase your range of mobility over time.
Learn more about dynamic versus static stretching here.
Add flexibility-friendly foods to your diet.
Eating foods with the right combination of macro and micronutrients can help you keep your body more flexible from the inside out. A balanced and varied diet should include many different foods that help keep your joints in great shape.
Foods that have proper amounts of omega-3 fatty acids are a great place to start. Omega-3s are great for taking on hyper-reactions in your immune system that can leave you feeling stiff and less than your best. Good sources include fish, avocados, nuts, and vegetables like Brussels sprouts.
Antioxidant-rich foods are also great for helping your body undo the damage that free radicals can do. Tomatoes have lots of lycopene. Blueberries are a great source of anthocyanin. A glass of grape juice with dinner can lend a serving of antioxidants in the family known as flavonoids.
Make sure that your diet has plenty of protein. Lean protein from sources that include salmon, chicken, lentils, and chickpeas all help maintain muscle mass, which is essential for your strength and range of movement.
And, make sure you stay hydrated. Keep a water bottle with you and drink it throughout the day whenever you feel thirsty. Our bodies, especially our muscles, are composed mainly of water. Keeping hydration levels high can support muscle elasticity.
Use heat and cold therapy.
Sometimes, discomfort and stiffness are the reasons for a reduced range of mobility. Both heat and cold therapy can soothe to make it easier to move again. Cold therapy works by numbing the area where you are experiencing achy discomfort. It can also soothe injured tissue. Heat, on the other hand, loosens up the area and helps out with circulation.
In one study, researchers found that moist heat was the best option for helping out with a range of motion. In the study, the researchers had people who had discomfort in their fingers dip their hands in paraffin baths. They concluded that moist heat was an especially good option when used alongside other tools. While the effect is temporary, it can be a lifesaver on a stiff and achy day.
Continue to Build Your Self-Care Toolbox
Getting a better range of motion can cut injury, keep you moving and help you stay involved in the activities that you enjoy. Incorporating these tips into your daily life can help you hold onto a good range of motion and continue to have the sort of life that you want.