It takes more effort to maintain both muscle mass and flexibility as we age. Lots of factors contribute to this truth, including our high-stress sedentary lifestyle and natural hormonal changes. Which is more important to aging well? Strength or flexibility? Research shows that both flexibility and functional strength play a large role in injury prevention as well as athletic performance. It’s interesting to note that the numbers of injury for those who believe strength is more important are about equal to those who believe in flexibility.
What I see in my practice is that strength-declines follow flexibility-declines. We tend to stop doing activities which become awkward due to a lack of flexibility, like getting down on the floor. When was the last time you did a cart-wheel or a hand stand?
The less flexible you are, the less available motion you have to strengthen, and too much tightness creates too much compression at the joint, potentially adding to a wear problem within the joint itself, particularly if that joint is not in its optimal alignment.
Up to half of all sports-related injuries are said to be overuse injuries. This means that you could dramatically reduce your risk of injury simply by adding some variety to your workouts. In doing one thing over and over you may build cardiovascular strength and develop certain muscle groups, but it’s also possible to develop muscle imbalances as a result. And sometimes those muscle imbalances lead to injury. Repetition not only places wear and tear on your body, but also causes some serious mechanical problems if left unchecked.
By increasing your flexibility through stretching or Yoga, you reduce your risk of overuse injury. Adding a Yoga class not only complements your regular strength training, done correctly, Yoga will increase your flexibility, and reduce your risk of injury. Be careful, though! You are just as liable to get injured doing Yoga as you are in any other athletic endeavor if you’re not conditioned for it, but that’s the subject for another article.