Most people unconsciously think that exercise is something that has to happen in the gym.

Michelle Wright

However, living in lockdown means that everyone, including those who regularly attended a formal exercise program, are being challenged to stay active.

Being active is good for heart, bone, and mental health. And our body certainly lets us know when we have reduced activity because the aches and pains felt in the morning take a lot longer to subside.

One of the key reasons why we feel stiff and sore as we age, and particularly in the morning,  is the changes that happen in all the connective tissue in the body. The connective tissue (or fascia) joins muscles to each other and muscles to the skeleton.

With age and inactivity this connective tissue gets sticky and shrinks. Connective tissue is also influenced by dehydration as it is mainly made up of water.

“One of the key reasons why we feel stiff and sore as we age, and particularly in the morning, is the changes that happen in all the connective tissue in the body.”

Our connective tissue not only loves movement but loves movement in all different planes of movement. What does this mean?

There are three planes of movement – sagittal, lateral and transverses.

Sagittal is a backward and forward movement – think of walking or siting at a machine at the gym pushing and pulling a weight in front of us. This is the most common way that we move (or not move).

Lateral is when we move side to side – think of reaching sideways up and over your head or bending your ear to your shoulder.

Transversus is a rotation movement – think of dancing or even looking behind you.

Incorporating movement in all three planes will not only positively impact on aches and pains, but also help with reaction times. This is key when we want to avoid small tumbles that can lead to large health consequences.

“Our connective tissue not only loves movement but loves movement in all different planes of movement.”

And if yoga, dancing, Nordic walking or tai chi (all excellent examples of moving in all three planes) are not available, here are three simple ways to nourish your connective tissue:

  • When going out for a walk, pause along the way (perhaps a park bench can be the reminder) to some simple stretches with your arms above your head from side to side (lateral) and across your body as you look behind (transverse). You will find you get better results when your body is already warm, and each time you pause to do these stretches, see if you can reach a little bit further. This movement should feel good, not painful
  • When sitting, particularly for long stretches of time, set a timer to move your head by dropping chin to chest, ear to each shoulder, look behind both ways and if it feels okay, looking up to the ceiling. An excellent reminder is to time this with the commercial advertisements or with a trigger word on some of your favourite shows
  • Take small sips of water while you are moving. Your connective tissue will absorb hydration better when moving. That is why when you sit and drink you almost always need to go to the toilet immediately afterwards

And if your morning aches and pains are not a reminder that your body likes to move in all different directions then remember the adage – if you don’t move it – you lose it!

Michelle Wright is Living Longer Living Stronger Co-ordinator for COTA Victoria

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