When it comes to getting your body in motion, one of the simplest and most effective forms of exercise is stretching. Aging does not mean you will automatically lose your flexibility. The pain and stiffness that many individuals associate with aging begins as temporary tensions that become learned habits if the individual does not begin counterbalancing the effects of their increased stiffness. When muscles begin to tighten, they cease to be elastic and thus can restrict movement. With increased stiffness and restriction, many individuals may begin to limit movements that require stiff muscles, leading to disuse.
There’s many ways to get stretching into a daily routine, and two of those are through Tai Chi and Yoga.
Tai Chi is a Chinese practice and tradition that was originally developed for self-defense but evolved into a graceful exercise that can help reduce stress & anxiety and helps to increase flexibility and balance.
Tai chi is low impact and puts minimal stress on muscles and joints which makes it generally safe for all ages and levels of fitness. It may be especially suitable for older adults who can’t (or may not) otherwise exercise. It also requires no special equipment and can be done inside or out.
Yoga provides simple, mindful movements and offers relaxation benefits. At its most basic level, yoga is a series of stretching poses with the purpose of cleansing both mind and body of toxins and toxic thoughts. Yoga is typically practiced in a darkened room, with soothing music and an instructor who will lead participants through the various movements. Different poses address different muscles and joints and can work out kinks and help relieve stress.
Another benefit of yoga, and one that is important as we age, is it helps with balance issues and also helps to improve balance through some of the poses and the movements involved. Because a yoga session is thought to “massage your joints, muscles and brain” it is also thought to help move any toxins from your organs.
Both Tai Chi and Yoga have overall health benefits such as:
- Decreased stress and anxiety
- Increases aerobic capacity
- Increases energy and stamina
- Improves flexibility and balance
- Improves muscle strength and definition
Besides being a good form of exercise, stretching also improves strength and endurance and decreases the impact of injury. The best part about stretching is that it can be done anywhere and does not require any special equipment. Before beginning a stretching regimen, it is best to consult with your doctor to see what stretches are the most safe and effective for you or your loved one’s body type. Before stretching, it is always important to remember to:
- Warm up prior to stretching
- Never overextend while stretching, stretching should not cause pain and should be gentle
- Breath during your movements, never hold your breath while stretching
- Keep your back straight
- When moving your head from side to side, never move it too quickly
- If you experience any pain, re-evaluate the stretch or simply stop
You’ll reap long-term benefits as you stick with it. You’ll even find that when you’re in a stressful situation you can practice the mind-body concepts without performing the actual movements. With any other form of exercise, at LifeFone we want you to be protected, even when stretching. Equipping yourself with a medical alert device can ensure medical attention is a push of a button away, if you need it.
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