MIDLIFE IS A TIME when exercise should be less focused on how you look and more on how you move. Yes, it's great to look good, but not if it hurts your health or makes you less mobile.
Mobility affects so many parts of our daily life, from being able to do simple tasks to being able to talk to other people and walk safely without help.
In your 20s, you can be gung-ho about exercise because your body heals quickly and still benefits from the natural flexibility you had as a child. But as time passes, even simple moves like squats and lunges can become complex and take more effort.
As we age, mobility is essential not only for our bodies but for our minds as well. Research shows that exercise helps keep the brain in good shape to process memories, prevent cognitive decline, and even prevent dementia.
Mobility and flexibility are not the same, but they don't rule each other out either. Mobility means moving around without putting too much strain on the body. How flexible we are is based on how far our muscles can move. Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight.. Flexibility can help with mobility, and mobility can help with flexibility.
The capacity to move is vital for functional independence and quality of life. Unfortunately, mobility deteriorates with age. It's a crucial step in becoming disabled, which makes the risk of disability and death much higher. In ageing populations mobility limitations lead to a cascade of adverse events in old age.
Exercise and staying fit are not at the forefront of the minds of people who need them the most. It's vital at any age to be able to move around. The ageing process can be challenging for the body, so it's important to keep moving and be flexible. Evidence shows that physically active older adults are more likely to have a better physical function and a longer functional life expectancy than sedentary older adults.
The world's population is getting older; therefore, it is crucial to focus on the importance of mobility to keep people mobile longer. Mobility training can make our joints and muscles more flexible, helping us stand up straighter, eliminate everyday aches and pains and make us more aware of our bodies.
Your spine is key to mobility. Incorporating exercises like Cat-Cow will increase your spinal range of motion. The goal is to activate all the muscles around your spine and explore new ranges of motion.
Cat-Cow is one of the best mobility and flexibility exercises you can do. The movement aims to activate all the muscles that attach to each vertebra of your spine. Focus on the slow and controlled motion. It increases the flexibility of the neck, shoulders and spine. The movement also stretches the muscles of the hips, back, abdomen and chest. Each movement has either an inhalation or exhalation of the breath, making this a simple breathing technique.
You can perform Cat-Cow on an exercise mat or a carpeted floor.
Starting Position: All Fours
Start on your hands and knees, aligning your wrists underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips.
Think of the spine as a straight line connecting the shoulders to the hips. Try visualizing the line extending forward through the crown of the head and back through the tailbone – the position of a neutral spine.
Keep the neck long by looking down and out.
Inhale and Arch for Cow Pose
Curl your toes under.
Tilt your pelvis back so that your tailbone sticks up.
Let this movement ripple from your tailbone up your spine so that your neck is the last thing to move.
Your belly drops down, but keep your abdominal muscles hugging your spine by drawing your navel in.
Take your gaze gently up toward the ceiling without cranking your neck.
Exhale and Round for Cat Pose
Release the tops of your feet to the floor.
Tip your pelvis forward, tucking your tailbone. Again, let this action
move up your spine. Your spine will then naturally round.
Draw your navel toward your spine.
Drop your head.
Take your gaze to your navel.
Repeat the Cat-Cow Stretch on each inhale and exhale, matching the movement to your breath.
Continue for 5 to 10 breaths, moving the whole spine. After your final exhale, come back to a neutral spine.