By Matt Evans
If you're over 50, weight loss can be a challenge. As your body ages, you might struggle when searching for the best exercises for weight loss, as they contain lots of dynamic, high-impact exercises that might challenge your joints and range of motion. With a generally lower metabolism and stiffening muscles, it can become quite hard to stay active. Of course, if you're not active, you're not burning many calories, leading to weight gain, further muscular atrophy and a sedentary lifestyle.
However, there is a daily habit that can combat those aches and pains, keep your muscles healthy, improve your range of motion and undo the damage of a mostly sedentary lifestyle. Ready? Here it comes...
Mobility training is often viewed as an afterthought to exercise, when it's thought of at all. However, if you're exercising to stay healthy, stretching should be at the forefront of your mind. A study published in the Journal of Physiology found stretching every day promotes enhanced blood flow to your muscles, keeping them healthy and oxygenated.
This is much more important than you might realise. As we get older, our muscles naturally waste away. This process, known as atrophy, makes our bodies physically weaker. As the muscles waste, they also get shorter, which accounts for the stiffness in our muscles as we age. Picture an elderly person's shuffle in comparison to a healthy middle-aged person's stride.
Stretching mitigates all this. As we stretch and lengthen our muscles, this actively fights against the shortening process. This means we have a greater range of motion for longer, allowing us to stay active well into our old age.
Is your body taking longer and longer to recover from exercise, or a long day sitting at your desk? Stretching has been found to reduce acute inflammation. The healthier and more flexible our muscles are, the more active we can be, the quicker we recover after exercise, which leads to more calories burned and weight lost in the long-term.
Of course, you need to maintain a healthy diet alongside regular exercise, but daily stretching will keep you active and healthy, giving you the ability to run, cycle, hike or go walking to lose weight. It's this active lifestyle and sense of achievement that makes staying healthy worth it, enhancing your quality of life as you get older.
Stretching every day doesn't have to take long: a quick stretching routine of just five minutes a day can prevent long-term damage. It's important to focus on your hamstrings, quads, hips, spine, core, shoulders and neck: to get started, you can see our guide on stretching exercises for more information.
Alternatively, you can try stretching disciplines like yoga, which has been proven to actively encourage longevity and flexibility in our bodies. Yoga also fights against mental health deterioration as well as physical health, making it a wonderful lockdown resource. One study found yoga practice can reduce fall-related injuries as well as provide pain relief and increased flexibility.
If you're suffering from creaky joints in addition to sore muscles, you can try our best supplements for joints to ensure your mobility is the best it can be.
Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and Channel Editor at Fit&Well. He's previously written for titles like Men's Health and Red Bull, and covers all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website.
Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen kickboxer and runner. His top fitness tip? Stretch.
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