My mum called the other day, starting off our conversation telling me she would need to stop jogging on the treadmill. She had only recently progressed from walking to jogging and was really enjoying the change of pace. However it seems her body didn’t agree. She was troubled with excessively swollen knee joints and discomfort in her lower back. I could hear her disappointment; her body was failing her in completing the task that her mind requested. Mum is a very healthy, fit and active 64 year old, however you don’t need to be in your sixties to experience this type of response from your body when beginning a new type of movement, it can happen at any age.
Swelling (inflammation) and pain is a sign of injury and your cue to rest, take things slowly and reassess if what you are doing is beneficial to your physical wellbeing. As we age the smooth tissues and liquid (synovial fluid) that cushions joints and helps them move more easily, naturally deteriorates and when there are changes in routine, chores and exercise this challenges the body and recovery can take longer than in younger years.
In my previous post “Finding a healthier way of being” I talked about being quiet enough to listen to the body, this is also relevant when doing any physical activity. Being present and mindful when you exercise can allow you to receive the message that your body is needing you to slow down before you find yourself in pain.
There have been many studies on the benefits of yoga physically and mentally. A recent study conducted by the University of Illinois in August suggests that yoga boosts brain function and performance on cognitive tasks in older adults. Previous research has also suggested a regular practice of yoga may lower an inflammatory protein that is normally linked to aging and stress.
There is nothing wrong with shaking up your exercise regime, in fact changing the way you move is an excellent way to keep the brain active and working well, however it is important to go slowly and listen to our bodies, no matter what age we are – this is moving intelligently with age.
My top tips for moving intelligently with age;
- Assist joint strength and mobility with daily simple rotations of the wrists, ankles, hips, knees and elbows can assist with stimulating the cushioning fluids surrounding the joints.
- After periods of exercise, it can be helpful for the lower joints in the body (hips, knees and ankles) to lie down with legs elevated either up the wall or propped with cushions. This encourages release of fluid in the lower body, regulates blood flow and encourages circulation which can all assist with inflammation.
The key to moving intelligently with age is to start slow, introduce new movements gently, with a couple of days rest in between, then check in before continuing. Include a few simple yoga postures into your daily routine or joining a yoga class even just once a week can release tension, increase mobility in the joints and gently lengthen tight and tired muscles assisting in a quicker recovery.