[ read time < 3 minutes + VIDEO ]
What do young children and kangaroos have in common? Healthy, elastic connective tissue. Children are constantly on the move, bouncing from one activity to the next, and kangaroos have been studied for their long leaping ability.
But the majority adults-- even active adults-- have lost elasticity, resulting in tightness, rigidity, or injuries.
You likely know someone who has suffered from a torn ligament or a ruptured Achilles Tendon. Or you may be experiencing some stiffness in your own body. These situations are often related to the loss of elasticity within connective tissues.
Connective tissues include:
thick strands of tissue that tie muscles to bones (tendons);
cords that connect bones together (ligaments); &
tough sheets that surround and shrink wrap muscles, bones, and organs (fascia).
When your foot hits the ground-- for example, while walking-- the connective tissues in your lower leg and foot stretch like a tough rubber band. As you lift your foot off the ground to take another step, the connective tissue recoils to its original position. This gives you a natural spring in your step-- as long as you have kept these tissues healthy and elastic.
But cardiovascular exercise, such as cycling, does not typically improve connective tissue. And conventional weight lifting only addresses the health of the connective tissue nearest the muscles being used. So while children and animals maintain healthy connective tissue almost accidentally, adults with responsibilities and busy schedules need to be intentional about keeping their connective tissues elastic.
If you have begun to lose elasticity and feel stiffness setting in, or if you have ever had an injury involving tendons, ligaments, or fascia, watch this video for some options to increase the elasticity of your connective tissue:
Improvements in the elasticity of your connective tissue happens over 6 - 24 months. This time frame may sound discouraging, but the required duration of each episode of exercise is comparable to the time it takes to brush your teeth.
By adding the exercises (demonstrated in the above video) as a quick warm up to one or more of your weekly exercise routines, you will increase the spring in your step during the year ahead.