This question is commonly raised by patients regarding their long-term physical health. A good Answer: Maintain flexibility with intermittent mild to moderate exercise through the full range of available motion. Flexibility loss plays a significant role in the origin of most traumatic/overuse musculoskeletal injuries, and a diligent effort regarding one’s exercise regimen can mean the difference between a minor mishap or a seriously debilitating injury. Picture two people walking down an icy sidewalk, both fall, one is mobile and strong, the other weaker and less flexible; guess who might end up in our office?
Flexibility loss classically progresses in a fashion below that of one=s perceivable threshold. Becoming aware of the problem is often via the inspection of photos taken of the individual 20-30 years prior. Often noted in the upper torso is the forward head posture, rounded shoulders, and increased thoracic kyphosis (Dowagers hump). In a physical sense, one may be aware of lost rotation in the neck, diminished ability to raise the arms overhead, the requirement of additional pillows when sleeping, tight heel cords and hamstrings, the list goes on and on.
Our adult lifestyle tends to be one of repetitive movement or positioning patterns, a good example is the amount of time spent sitting, standing and sleeping in a particular fashion day in and day out. Plotted on a graph, this might look somewhat like a bell curve, with movement patterns at either end being seldom used and eventually lost. When is the last time you hung from the monkey bars? If required to move through the extremes of motion, it is often uncomfortable, predisposing us to avoid it in the future. If this pattern continues, one only looses more and more motion, and the bell curve becomes narrower and taller.
Most of us follow a pattern of conflict management where we put out the worst fire in our personal or business life, then move on to the next. It is often an exhilarating lifestyle, but it doesn’t take long to figure out that a lot of things end up on the back shelf, one of them being our health. Unfortunately, it is frequently too late when reality strikes because something begins to falter.
The good news is that it’s really not that hard to maintain a healthy body. Once involved in such a program, it is commonly found that stress diminishes and levels of energy and productivity increase. For most of us, there is a large amount of nonconstructive time wasted each day. An inventory may need to be taken to restructure the day, opening up the needed thirty minutes. This is your time, your time to look out for #1. Within months, you’ll feel like you can’t live without it because the rewards have been realized.
The most difficult obstacle is finding a form of exercise that is convenient, motivating and enjoyable. Find a similarly enticed friend or mentor to join or guide you. This makes the psychological component much less difficult early on; it’s harder to let someone else down as well. Choose an exercise where there are achievable goals. Losing measurable weight takes time, and is initially slowed due to the fact that you’re changing fat into muscle. Keep track of such things as respiration levels, pulse or distance walked in a period of time. These have a tendency to change more rapidly in the early phases of an exercise program. Exercise close to work or home, preventing the use of excuses regarding the inconvenience of transportation.