April 7, 2014 in Features

Flexibility routine fights off stiffness

Wina Sturgeon McClatchy-Tribune

One of the top 10 bad things about getting older is the stiffness that comes to joints and muscles. The loose swing of the hips, that signal of youthful movement, fades away. Movements become hesitant and jerky.

Many folks over 50 are still active; so stiffness takes longer to affect their body. But even “masters” athletes move more stiffly and lose the relaxation that marks youthful gestures and actions.

Just a little daily work will rejuvenate (“re-youth-enate”) your body. It will only take about five minutes to do this “unstiffening” workout.

You’ll need to shake without deliberately moving the muscles involved. There should be no muscle tension whatsoever.

• Start first with the lower legs. Stand on one leg while raising the thigh of your other leg. Then, while concentrating on relaxing your knee, shake your lower leg. Your entire leg will move. Relax the ankle so your foot will shake freely as well.

• Next, bracing yourself with your hands on two surfaces, like the walls in a corner, shake your leg back and forth and from side to side while relaxing the hip and leg. Then do the same with the other leg.

• To loosen the arms, bend over so one arm hangs loosely and can be shaken without hitting the trunk or legs. Shake the wrist and hand first. The fingers should be a visual blur. Then shake the entire arm. Try to get the shoulder in as well, though it may take work to learn to relax the arm and shoulder without the upper back muscles tensing up.

• Now, sit on a firm chair or other hard surface. Let your arms relax, with your hands in your lap. Roll and shake your neck, shoulders and torso. Stop every 20 seconds or so to keep from getting dizzy.

• While still sitting, move the lower trunk, the spine and abdomen. The movement will actually come from the shoulders and lats, but you’ll feel it mostly in your stomach, hips and lower spine.

• Finally, shake your booty, as the old song says. Stand up straight, with feet flat on the floor. Concentrate on shaking, not wiggling, your butt. The movement should be fast and loose, from side to side. The glutes are the largest muscles in the body, so they are easy to shake.

This brief workout moves the connective tissue and adds pliability to tendons and ligaments, making joints and muscles more flexible.

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