Product Focus - Flexibility
Dodgy back? Creaky knees? Stiff shoulders? Many of us are quick to assume general body aches and pains are solely down to age. And while this may be true in part – some may start to experience physical decline as they age – it’s certainly not the full story. In fact, there’s a strong case to suggest ageing doesn’t cause a decline in mobility; it’s a decline in mobility that causes ageing.
Of course, the petri dish of modern life isn’t exactly conducive to our body’s needs. Shockingly, most UK adults spend 9 hours a day sedentary: sitting behind screens, driving, commuting to work, lounging at home.1 And the problem is that our sedentary lifestyles don’t just risk early mortality; they affect our ability to move, too.
Fortunately, we can make changes to help improve our flexibility and mobility.
Flexibility vs. mobility
A quick note on semantics. The terms ‘flexibility’ and ‘mobility’ are often thrown around in the health and wellness space. Confusingly, they aren’t the same thing.
Flexibility is the muscle’s ability to open and lengthen passively. Performing static (still) stretches using props, body weight, or limb support improves muscular flexibility.
Mobility, contrastingly, is related to the joint’s ability to move actively through its full range of motion. Think shoulder rolls and neck circles.
You can’t have good mobility without good flexibility.
Dangers of being sedentary
A large proportion of us spend the best part of the day sitting – at our desks, in front of screens, commuting to work, watching TV and eating in dining chairs. Experts now believe prolonged periods of sedentariness are responsible for a host of health conditions, including those related to mobility and flexibility. And no wonder. In very simple terms, inactivity means we’re not satisfying our evolutionary role as moving, vital beings.
Use it or lose it
Davis’ Law of ‘use it or lose it’ is pretty self-explanatory. If you don’t exercise, you run the risk of diminishing your hard-earned flexibility and mobility. That’s why staying active is vital as you get older. Based on all the scientific evidence, it’s a decline in movement that leads to creaky shoulders and dodgy knees – not the other way around.
Reasons to stay supple
There are countless reasons why flexibility and mobility are indispensable to good health and wellbeing. (And it’s not just because doing the splits is cool). From better posture to fewer injuries, here’s why you should focus on limbering up as you age.
Endless deskwork and screen-time can throw your posture out of whack. Your neck seizes up. Your shoulders hunch. Your back niggles. Improving your flexibility can correct your alignment and help to straighten out your posture.
Poor mobility and tight muscles are often behind those irksome, everyday injuries. You know the kind that takes you by surprise: bending over to pick something up, moving the wrong way in bed, heck, even sneezing. Studies suggest flexibility training increases your range of motion, which may reduce the risk of injuries.2 Improving your flexibility may also minimize performance-related injuries.3
Inflexibility and poor balance often go hand in hand, which can increase the risk of falls in older adults.4 But improving balance and flexibility means you’ll feel more confident on your feet.
Flexibility training lengthens and opens your muscles, helping to reduce chronic aches and pains. (Added bonus: you’ll probably experience fewer muscle cramps, too.)
Find a dynamic exercise that works for you
Yoga, Pilates, and Tai Chi make up the triumvirate of flexibility-focused exercise. (Basic stretching also counts, of course). These activities elongate and stretch the muscles.
There’s no magic bullet to improve your body’s range of movement. It takes time, patience and dedication. Ever noticed how stiff your body feels when you’ve taken a hiatus from exercise? Following a regular flexibility and mobility training programme will help keep your muscles and joints in good working order.
Feed your flexibility
Besides movement, making changes to your diet is one of the best ways to lengthen, open, and expand your body. Although no one food can magically make you touch your toes, certain dietary changes will complement your flexibility training and help you limber up.
The importance of protein
Protein is essential for repairing and building your muscles and connective tissues, making it vital if you want to step up your mobility game. Dietary protein is available in meat, poultry, fish and dairy products, however, plant-based sources, such as beans, tofu and Edamame are also a helpful way to increase your protein intake.
The Mediterranean diet
Rich in healthy fats, colourful plants, whole grains, beans, oily fish and nuts and seeds, the Mediterranean is lorded as the Holy Grail of good nutrition – and it’s no surprise, really. Experts increasingly believe adopting a Mediterranean diet may support your joint health, amongst other things.
Avoid inflammatory foods
If you want to support your joints and muscles, watch your intake of the following foods which may cause inflammation.
Sugar: Any kind of sweet treat rich in refined sugar (hello, fizzy drinks, chocolate and pastries) will likely contribute to inflammation in the body.
Saturated fats: Foods high in saturated fat, like cheese, often have a ‘pro-inflammatory status’.
Refined carbs: Takeaways, fast food and microwave meals are known to increase inflammation in the body.
It can be helpful to think of your body as a sponge. Without enough water, the sponge becomes stiff, weak and brittle; with enough water, it becomes flexible, agile and supple. Our muscles are 79 per cent water, which means proper hydration is essential to keep them in good working order.5
Here are our top supplement suggestions to support flexibility and mobility
 Why we should sit less. (2021). https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/why-sitting-too-much-is-bad-for-us/
 Stathokostas, L., Little, R. M., Vandervoort, A. A., & Paterson, D. H. (2012). Flexibility training and functional ability in older adults: a systematic review. Journal of aging research, 2012, 306818.
 Gleim, G., & McHugh, M. (1997). Flexibility and Its Effects on Sports Injury and Performance. Sports Medicine, 24(5), 289-299.
 Iwamoto, J., Suzuki, H., Tanaka, K., Kumakubo, T., Hirabayashi, H., & Miyazaki, Y. et al. (2008). Preventative effect of exercise against falls in the elderly: a randomized controlled trial. Osteoporosis International, 20(7), 1233-1240.
The Water in You: Water and the Human Body | U.S. Geological Survey. (2021). https://www.usgs.gov/special-topics/water-science-school/science/water-you-water-and-human-body