Why do we get less flexible as we age?



Why is it, that as we get older, some things just get harder to do? Why don’t our bodies move as well as they used to? It is a well-established fact that we lose flexibility as we age. It can take us much longer to warm up during an activity, which can reduce our performance and lead to injury. With these facts, it is no coincidence that we see many older clients in our clinic and often hear such things as:


Stiff back



•   “I am really stiff getting out of bed.”

•   “I can barely get my shoes on first thing in the morning.”

•   “I feel like I have been run over by a truck the day after a footy game.”

•   “It takes me forever to warm up to play golf.”




If any of these sound like you, then read on to find out why this happens and what can you do about it!

What happens to our body as we age?

As a result of the normal ageing process, our bodies continually lose a small amount of flexibility. This decreased flexibility can negatively affect our everyday lives by reducing our functional ability in our normal activities of daily living. For example, you may find it difficult to get up off the floor, so you tend to avoid any activities that require you to get down on the floor. This avoidance and self-limitation can lead to even further loss of function and flexibility.

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and is a major component of bone, muscle, tendons and cartilage. Our collagen levels begin a slow decline from the age of 25, causing bone, muscle, tendons and cartilage to become less flexible over time (Essentials of Anatomy & Physiology, 3rd Ed 2022).

As we age, our bones tend to diminish in size and density making us become frailer. Subchondral bone (the bone that sits underneath cartilage in a joint) is also reduced in thickness and density. Our muscle tends to lose size and strength as we get older, leading to early fatigue, weakness and a reduced tolerance to exercise. Muscle fibres reduce in number and size with age, also muscle tissue is replaced more slowly, and lost muscle tissue is replaced with a tough, fibrous tissue leading to further loss of flexibility.



The loss of flexibility as we age is also partly due to our bodies becoming more dehydrated as we retain less fluid throughout our musculoskeletal system, due to reduced muscle bulk. Connective tissues such as tendons and ligaments also stiffen due to fluid loss, which, in turn, causes our joints to stiffen.

Are we able to help keep our flexibility as we age?

Yes! While some changes are inevitable, we can slow or even reverse some of this flexibility loss and prevent severe losses of function. The saying “use it or lose it!” is very appropriate here. When you don’t exercise your muscles, muscle wasting occurs, and you lose strength. When we get weaker, we tend to move less, which in turn leads to loss of range of motion with stiff joints and tight muscles.

Fortunately, it can often be very simple to counteract this loss of movement and flexibility as we age, just get moving!


Clinic Exercise


Staying active and exercising can help prevent and reverse many age-related changes to your muscles, bones and joints. Research shows that physical activity in later life may delay the progression of osteoporosis, as it slows down the rate at which bone mineral density is reduced. Older people can also increase muscle mass and strength through weight training and resistance exercises. Balance and co-ordination exercises can help reduce the risk of falls. Stretching and functional exercise are great ways to keep mobile and flexible as we age.¹  Research findings support the importance of starting physical exercise habits from the beginning of old age and suggest that training should be maintained in the long term.²

You can also help to promote your bone, joint and muscle health by:

  • Getting adequate amounts of calcium. This can be achieved from dietary sources of calcium such as dairy products, broccoli, kale, salmon and tofu.
  • Getting adequate amounts of vitamin D. Many people get adequate amounts of vitamin D from being outdoors in sunlight. Other sources include tuna, salmon, eggs, milk and vitamin.
  • Including physical activity in your daily routine. The types of exercise that help include weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, jogging, climbing stairs and weight training can all help you build strong bones and slow bone loss. They also help you maintain muscle strength and flexibility.

Here at Lilyfield Physiotherapy, we run many exercise classes such as Fitbones, Clinical exercise groups and Circuit training. We are here to GET you moving no matter your age or current level of ability! It is vital to keep moving to stay healthy and fit especially as we age. Let us help you determine the right exercise options for your body and your lifestyle. Remember…

You were made to move!

Call us or book in online for an exercise consultation.


  1.  Light resistance and stretching exercise in elderly women: effect upon flexibility.  Raab DM, Agre JC, McAdam M, Smith EL. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 1 Apr 1988
  2. A long-term physical activity training program increases strength and flexibility, and  improves balance in older adults. Jesus Seco, Luis Carlos Abecia, Enrique Echevarria, Ismael Barbero, Juan Torres-Unda, Vicente Rodriguez, Jose Ignacio Calvo. http://doi.org/10.1002/rnj.64. 30 Jan 2013

Ready to start moving again?