It is the technical term used to describe a direction of movement or range of motion. If you were standing and facing a mirror, extending a joint would likely result in that body part moving backwards, away from the mirror. You might be wondering why this direction is so important to maintain with age. After all, most of the things we do or interact with are in front of our body.
Here is a list of reasons why extension is critical to mobility:
- Most people lose the ability to extend more than flex (curl forward) with age.
- It allows you to look people in the eye, see what’s ahead, and take in more of your surroundings.
- Extension promotes balance by keeping our center of gravity on top of our feet (ideal) vs over our toes (abnormal).
- It makes other movement more efficient like allow us to reach higher overhead or walk faster by taking longer steps.
- Extension helps improve energy by promoting full expansion of our lungs with oxygen during everyday tasks.
- It is THE BEST way to maintain your height!
What things contribute to loss of extension with age?
Poor posture, too much sitting, sedentary lifestyle, obesity, arthritis, osteoporosis, injuries, stroke, Parkinson’s Disease, dementia…the list can go on and on. The truth is that many different habits and health factors can diminish our ability to extend our joints with age.
The key take-home message is that there is always something you can do to preserve this important ability.
What activities to focus on for maintaining extension:
- Choose to emphasize strengthening muscle groups on the back of your body more than those on your front. This generally equates to doing more PULLING exercises than PUSHING in your comprehensive exercise regimen.
- Stretch anterior (front) muscle groups by reaching/arching your body parts towards the back direction.
- Use that extension range of motion during everyday tasks–stick out your chest, pinch your shoulder blades together, look up ahead, contract your buttocks, and take those long steps when you walk.
Keeping extension means keeping you younger.
No, you shouldn’t lie to a peace officer or your census taker, but being able to extend your joints WILL let you move much better than people who cannot and allow you to defy the statistics. Preserving function with better flexibility and strength is a potent way to ensure your activity and ability through the aging process.
Remember to listen to your body and always consult with your physical therapist and physician when starting a new exercise routine.
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