Inevitably with time, things change. You feel a bit stiffer in the mornings; your joints are a little creaky; a glimpsed reflection in a window reveals you're not as straight as you thought. Decreased flexibility may be a common aspect of aging, but it is one that you can do something about, no matter what your age.
Just a few minutes of daily stretching can help maintain flexibility, which in turn keeps the muscles supple and counteracts the wear and tear of everyday life, allowing you to maintain a youthful appearance and active lifestyle. By enhancing your mobility, stretching increases your efficiency in all activities so that they require less effort and leave you feeling less tired.
Your ability to stretch depends on genetics as well as your daily habits. The unique structure of bones and the length of the soft tissue (muscles, tendons and ligaments) surrounding them determine the joints' range of movement. Some joints, like those affected by arthritis, may be "stiff" or restricted; others like those of a contortionist, "loose" or hypermobile.
The constant downward pull of gravity and gradual dehydration of the body's tissues cause us literally to shrink over time, but stretching can help by lengthening the muscles. There is a natural tendency for some muscles to be short and tight, while others are prone to being long and weak.
Stretching can help offset this imbalance and improve the alignment, as in the "forward slouch." This is a typical posture of aging: upper back rounded, shoulders hunched, and the head forward of the body. The remedy is to stretch the chest and shoulders and re-align the head by strengthening the neck and back muscles.
Poor posture and alignment can cause pain when the muscles become chronically tired and strained and more prone to injury. Headache, neck and shoulder tension, sciatica, low back, hip and knee pain can all be symptoms of this. In addition, shortened muscles are more at risk for injury caused by simple movements.
Here are easy stretches you can do throughout the day:
Gentle Morning Limbering: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0cYeDANUwk
At-Work Desk Stretches: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XE-uuiZnChM
End-of-Day Couch Stretches https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prLmMmObous
See more simple exercises you can do around the house in my Daily Video Tool Kit.