How flexible should you be? Well, flexible enough that you are pain free and functional.
That really is what matters for day-to-day living.
Muscles, tendons, ligaments and skin all have collagen which is a major connective tissue that provides elasticity. Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body and aids in strengthening your tissues. Before the age of 30, collagen is plentiful and in some cases, too much, as in joint hyper mobility.
But as we age the “amount of collagen in your body decreases over time… 1-2% per year. This reduction is the body’s response to the aging process and is a natural part of what happens as we age. The protein structures within our bodies begin to reduce flexibility and are more likely to break or be degraded over time.”- https://www.absolutecollagen.com/blogs/features-testimonials/at-what-age-does-collagen-production-decrease
So what can you do to maintain your flexibility? Stretch daily and perhaps try collagen supplements available over the counter that “can help improve skin health, relieve joint pain, prevent bone loss, boost muscle mass, and promote heart health.” Please consult your physician if you have any questions about supplements. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/collagen-benefits#4.-Could-boost-muscle-mass
The ‘other side of the coin ‘ is to be hyperflexbile.
This has its advantages for many sports and hobbies, but be cautious so as to not over stretch your joints as they can dislocate or move too much causing pain. Hyperflexibility is common in people diagnosed with scoliosis.
It can also be a symptom of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome which is a connective tissue disorder that is “characterized by joint hypermobility (joints that stretch further than normal), skin hyperextensibility (skin that can be stretched further than normal), and tissue fragility. ” https://www.ehlers-danlos.com/ehlers-danlos-in-the-news/. The Beighton Scale is a clinical tool to assess widespread hypermobiltiy and multiple factors are assessed. Download this PDF to get more information if you think you are hyper flexible and contact your doctor if you think this describes you.
The ultimate goal is BALANCE of the connective tissues in your body to help you live a pain free and highly functional lifestyle!
Take this test to see how your flexibility scores:
(modified from “These Tests Will Measure Your Flexibility from Head to Toe” by Samantha LeFave 1/14/2020 https://www.shape.com/fitness/tips/flexibility-test)
1- Hamstring test: Bend forward from an upright position and reach for the ground with your hands
- Both hands completely touch the ground= 2
- Both hands touch your ankles or lower shins=1
- Both hands touch at mid shins or above your knees or your hands touch unevenly to your shins or above knees=0
2. Hip Rotator Test: Lie on your back, with the left foot on the ground and right ankle resting gently on top of the left knee. Lift the left leg up off the ground and try to reach for your hamstring or shin, bringing it in closer to your chest or into a Figure 4 position. Repeat on other side .
- You are able to bring both legs close to your chest and easily grab the shins=2
- You are able to grab behind your thigh and lift both legs so that the knees are in line with the hips =1
- You cannot reach the back of your leg and/or lift it off of the ground 1-2 inches or one leg lifts higher than the other=0
3. Spine Test: Lie on your back and bring both knees into the chest.Then, keeping your upper body flat on the ground—it may help to stretch your arms out to each side—slowly rotate both knees to one side, getting as close to the ground as possible
- You can rotate easily from side to side while keeping your back and buttocks on the ground=2
- You can rotate your legs from side to side but your pelvis/ buttocks lift off of the ground= 1
- You can rotate your legs unevenly side to side and/or less than 45 degrees either side=0
4. Shoulder test: Start standing with feet together and arms down by your side. Bring your hands behind your back and aim to grab the opposite forearm.
- You are able to reach to the opposite elbow or above the elbow=2
- You are able to reach to the opposite forearm between the elbow and wrist=1
- You are able to reach to the opposite wrist or hand =0
5. Neck test: From a seated cross-legged position, slowly rotate your head to one side and look behind you.
- You can easily look over your shoulder without lifting your chin up or down =2
- You can turn your head to nearly your shoulder =1
- You can turn your head in line with your collar bone or less and/or with pain =0
Let’s see your score by adding up the numbers:
8-10 points: You are very flexible! Your exercises need to include stability and strength and not to push your joints to hyper mobility or laxity. Be cautious not to dislocate your joints
5-7 points : You have good flexibility! You need to maintain an even exercise routine of flexibility, strengthening and stability.
0-4 points: You are tight! You need to stretch often and with longer holds.
So get to work on either stretching, strengthening and/or stabilizing your body today!