Importance of Flexibility as We Age

Our flexibility and range of motion in our joints tend to decrease as we age. By stretching and exercising at least three times a week we can stay flexible and maintain healthy joints.

As we age, we are not as flexible as when we were younger. Why is that?

Dr. Luke Stringer: As people age, the soft tissue surrounding the joints which is muscles, ligaments, and tendons tends to thicken. And as it thickens, this can limit our range of motion or our flexibility within the joint. Also, the cartilage, which is the connective tissue in the joints which kind of provides the cushion and aids in movement, tends to decrease as we age. This depletion can also limit flexibility within the joint.

In what areas of the body is flexibility affected the most by age?

Dr. Luke Stringer: This is on a case-by-case basis. However, the joints that bear the most weight and are used the most often such as the spine, the hips, the knees and the shoulders tend to see the biggest reduction in flexibility.

Can diet and other outside factors impact our flexibility?

Dr. Luke Stringer: Certainly. A diet high in inflammatory foods such as high sugar content, processed foods, hydrogenated fats can lead to inflammation within the body and over time, this can damage the tissue and its ability to function properly. Also, lack of exercise plays a big role. The old saying, “Use it or lose it,” really plays a part here. Also, extenuating circumstances such as old injuries can also play an important role in the loss of flexibility.

Why is it so important to try to maintain flexibility or to try to regain it as we age?

Dr. Luke Stringer: If we view our body like a car, then we could all probably agree that maintaining your car to keep it running smoothly is far better than having a car that breaks down and we have to fix. In every sense, time, energy, frustration, and money, so maintaining good flexibility is key for overall well-being. Regular exercise, coupled with specific flexibility programs can increase your resistance to injury and chronic pain. It can also decrease body fat, increase muscle mass, increases blood and oxygen flow around the body. It just aids in overall wellness and performance.

What are some exercises and easy things people can do to maintain flexibility on a daily basis?

Dr. Luke Stringer: I feel group exercise is a great way to work on and maintain good flexibility, such as yoga, Pilates, or Tai Chi and they’re super fun. However, some good tips to upkeep the flexibility, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least two to three days a week performing a specific flexibility routine. You should be doing this, two to four reps of each stretch. Around 15 to 30 second holds and then just try and stretch all the major muscle groups. And then also stretching in multiple directions really improves the function of the joint.

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