What it takes to be agile at any age

It's never too late to start thinking about flexibility and mobility. Use these tips to stay agile well past middle age.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

You may have noticed a few of the signs already. Maybe when you get up in the morning, you're stiffer than you used to be. Or your knees get achy after sitting awhile.

Over time, everyone's body ages and shows signs from natural wear and tear. Regular exercise helps delay the process. However, many people forget to include mobility exercises in their routine.

Both flexibility and mobility are important to how your body functions. Flexibility refers to the ability to move a joint through the full range of motion, or fully lengthen a muscle. Mobility involves a bit more. It includes flexibility, as well as strength, coordination and balance.

Staying active and preserving mobility are important as you age.

Here are three ways you can make sure your body can stay in motion for a long time to come:

  1. Stretch every day

    Simple stretching can increase your range of motion and decrease pain in conditions like rotator cuff tendinopathy. The great thing about stretching is that you can do it anywhere, and it only takes a few seconds to a few minutes.

    There are three types of basic stretches. You can choose to focus on increasing flexibility or you can work on mobility, too.

    Static stretching — You probably learned this style in middle school. (Think standing toe touch and thigh stretch.) Static stretching increases flexibility by putting light tension on a muscle and holding the position for 30-60 seconds. Be sure not to bounce. It's best to warm up first before attempting this type of stretch.

    Isometric stretching — In this type of stretching, you get into a static stretch position, then gently contract the stretched muscle. Keep the length of the muscle and the angle of the joint steady. Hold for 10-15 seconds then relax your muscle for about 20 seconds or more, then repeat. Isometric stretching increases strength and flexibility.

    Dynamic stretching — When you roll your neck, do walking lunges or arm windmills, you're doing dynamic stretching. A dynamic stretch takes a specific movement and allows the joints and muscles to move through their full range of motion.

    Dynamic stretching is controlled and smooth. It's a great way to warm up before exercising and helps increase range of motion.

    When beginning a stretching routine, remember to take it slow. Stretching too quickly and too far can trigger your body's defense mechanisms to protect itself from tearing joints and muscles. Stretch just until you feel tension. If you feel pain, you've gone too far.

  2. Discover foam roller self-massage.

    They cost as little as $10 and come in many lengths and densities. A foam roller is an easy and convenient way to release tension in muscles and connective tissue, which helps increase flexibility and improve mobility.

    For beginners, a medium foam roller may be most comfortable.

  3. Use your body's natural movement

    Using your body's natural movements can increase your mobility, stability and balance. Plus, it adds a little playfulness into your day. One example of a "natural movement" activity is crawling. Getting down on all fours strengthens and mobilizes just about every muscle and joint in your body. Climbing, carrying, throwing and catching (safely and gently, of course) are other ways to keep yourself supple.

However you choose to move, remember to breathe freely, start slow, be gentle, and don't bounce.

Perhaps most important: Find stretches and other activities you actually like to do that fit into your daily routine. That's the best way to guarantee you'll stick with a more flexible way of life.

Nov. 01, 2018 See more In-depth

See also

  1. Slide show: 5 smart exercise choices for psoriatic arthritis
  2. 6 tips for an active getaway you'll remember
  3. Accentuate the positive to make lasting health changes
  4. An appointment to exercise? You bet!
  5. Are you ready for a workout?
  6. Balance training: Boost your long-term health with these exercises
  7. Barriers to fitness
  8. Blood Doping
  9. BMI calculator
  10. Body fat analyzers
  11. Boot camp workout
  12. The role of diet and exercise in preventing Alzheimer's disease
  13. Core exercises
  14. Create a home gym without breaking the bank
  15. Did you exercise today? Reward yourself!
  16. Toning shoes
  17. Does fitness trump thinness?
  18. Don't have an exercise budget? Go cheap!
  19. Dress smart for winter workouts
  20. Early bird or night owl? Plan exercise accordingly
  21. Exercise benefits
  22. Exercise and chronic disease
  23. Exercise and illness
  24. Stress relief
  25. Exercise: Every minute counts!
  26. Exercising with arthritis
  27. Exercise smarter, not longer
  28. Exercise: Check with your doctor
  29. Exercising regularly? Track your progress!
  30. Fitness program
  31. Fitness: Take it 1 step at a time
  32. Fitness motivation
  33. Fitness ball exercises videos
  34. Fitness barriers: Bust 'em
  35. Fitness for less
  36. Fitness ideas for the entire family
  37. Fitness program
  38. Fitness takes more than huffing and puffing
  39. Fitness tip: Get physical at home
  40. Fitness tip: Get physical at work
  41. Fitness tip: Include your friends
  42. Fitness training routine
  43. Fitting in fitness
  44. Going up? Take the stairs
  45. Golf injuries
  46. Golfers: Know when to call it quits
  47. Golfers: Tee up common sense
  48. Hanging out with friends? Activity counts!
  49. Hate to exercise? Try these tips
  50. Heart rate
  51. Heat and exercise
  52. Hockey Flywheel
  53. How fit are you?
  54. How much exercise do you really need?
  55. 3 easy ways to get started with yoga
  56. Is exercise a chore? No more!
  57. Keep your workout fun
  58. Know when to move your winter workout indoors
  59. Late-day exercise
  60. Marathon and the Heat
  61. Mayo Clinic Minute: How to hit your target heart rate
  62. Miss a workout? Don't give up!
  63. Natural movement: Going back to basics
  64. Need a gym to get fit?
  65. Need exercise motivation? Put it on paper
  66. Need motivation to exercise? Try a diary
  67. No pain, no gain? No way!
  68. No time for exercise? No way!
  69. Office exercise
  70. Overuse injury prevention
  71. Pregnancy and exercise
  72. Ready to get in on the aquatic fitness movement?
  73. Simple tips for staying active and mobile with osteoarthritis
  74. Core-strength exercises
  75. Guide to stretches
  76. Balance exercises
  77. Fitness ball
  78. Starting a fitness program? Take it slow
  79. Starting an exercise program: Take time to rest
  80. Stay fit and healthy — without breaking a sweat
  81. Stay fit at any age
  82. Travel and work
  83. Strength training: How-to video collection
  84. The best ways to bounce back after a tough workout
  85. 5 common sports injuries in young female athletes
  86. To stay fit, embrace the power of play
  87. Too busy to exercise? Get up earlier
  88. Too sick to exercise?
  89. Fitness tips for business travelers
  90. Walking for fitness: Getting started
  91. Want to get fit? Try backyard aerobics!
  92. Winter blahs? 4 pro tips to get you off the couch.
  93. Cold-weather exercise
  94. Winter weather tip: Watch for signs of frostbite
  95. Working out? Remember to drink up
  96. Workout blahs? Don't go it alone!