Stretch it out

Reak, Groan, Snap Could these sounds have been made by the door?

Unfortunately, no. These are the sounds of protest that your joints make when you get up from the armchair you cur1up in to watch TV or when you haul yourself out of bed in the morning, or when you finally switch off your computer at work and get up to head home. And to think you’re only a thirty something. Young, really, but that’s not what your body believes. Because these sounds are the kind you hear from people in their forties and above. The sounds that indicate that the ageing process has kicked in once and for all. So how come they’ve begun to emerge so early? "

As we age, our bodies experience what is called ‘wear and teal " explains Dr Manish Mohil, consultant, internal medicine, at GM Modi Hospital, Delhi. "Joints lose their flexibility, reflexes become slower, and normal functioning becomes difficult. This is normal, nothing to worry about. But these days, because of the sedentary lifestyle most of us lead, we have begun to experience this ‘wear and tear’ at an earlier age." The two spheres that ageing affects the most are flexibility and the reflexes. Experts explain how to avert their wear and tear for as long as possible.

Joint effort One of the surest ways to test your flexibility is to try and touch your toes without bending your knees. Or, to check out how easily or otherwise you can squat in an Indian lavatory Can’t do either with ease? That’s because, face it, you just don’t move your body very much. That’s partly because of age – metabolism slows down as we grow older, which means that, physically, we are not as capable of activity as we once were, according to pilates expert Wesna Jacob; and partly because most of us have not built up an exercise routine that will ensure that our joints stay flexible. "We have got so used to doing things the easy way – travelling by car, taking a lift instead of the stairs – that our joints seem to have jammed," says Dr Puneet Dilawari, senior consultant, orthopedics, Fortis Hospital, Delhi.

The joints gets its nutrition from the synovial fluid that is formed when we move. So if the frequency of movement is decreased, there will be a decrease in the production of this fluid – and that means the movements of our joints will be painful." Even if you do follow a fitness regime, you need to consider whether you’re doing it right. Are you the kind of person who sits down and stays down five days a week, and then turns into an exercise maniac over the weekend? If you are, you’re not getting any of the benefits of exercise. In fact, you’re doing yourself harm, because suddenly you overuse the very same muscles you refused to use during the week. This is unbalanced. Balance is also required in the kind of exercise you do, says Arti Joshi, nutritionist and spa manager at Galaxy Hotel, Gurgaon. "Cardiovascular endurance, muscle strength, flexibility and functional training are the four main components of any fitness programme," she says. "But most men focus only on building muscle strength while women spend their energy on cardiovascular endurance.

No one realizes that flexibility and functional training are also important. This is why gymmers are prone to injury they cut down warm-ups and stretches and ignore core muscles like abs and thighs." The solution, according to Joshi, lies in a regular workout three times a week and an equal emphasis on strength training or yoga in your fitness regime. Jacob suggests that you get away from your desk every half an hour or so, to stretch your neck, shoulders, wrists and legs. She also suggests that you copy the way animals stretch. "If you do that regularly, you’ll never have to worry about flexibility any more," she says. You also need to balance your diet, says Jacob. She emphasizes the benefits of the Omega 3 fatty acids found in seafood and in certain oils. "Omega 3 ensures flexibility of the ligaments and the growth of muscle fiber that diminishes due to the natural process of aging," she explains.

Reflex action Your friends may laud you for your sharp memory now, but soon you will start forgetting things. Don’t worry, this won’t be amnesia, but the fact is that, as you age, your reflexes and your memory slow down naturally. If this happens to you when you’re in your thirties, take it seriously Stress is the major culprit, says Dr Sanjeev Dua, senior consultant neurosurgeon with Fortis Hospital. "Everything is so short lived these days that we are always rushed," says Dr Dua. "This means we are preoccupied with a thousand things at a time, which affects our capacity to react to circumstances." To counter this, Dr Dua suggests a few lifestyle changes. First of all, set the priorities of your life. Next, manage your time with the help of a diary or any gadget that serves that purpose. Create and maintain a routine of eating and sleeping.

Remember if you are ill-fed and sleep-deprived, your reflexes will not function well. Exercise your mind as well as your body, with puzzles and crosswords. And avoid multi-tasking, says Arti Joshi. Not only is it stressful, it also makes us forgetful. Even if you’re on a weight loss plan, don’t throw out the nutrients with the calories. A balanced diet is vital to stave off the aging process.

Protien: Lean meat, fish, egg white, tofu and all whole grams.

Carbohydrates: Complex carbs are found in fruit, vegetables and whole grain cereals.

Fats: Go in for unsaturated fatty acids. Avoid butter and ghee. And don’t eliminate oils altogether. WATER: Hydration is essential. Drink two to three liters a day.