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Does Flexibility Always Decrease With Aging? – An 18-year Follow-up In 10 Women: 1223 Board #78 3:30 PM – 5:00 PM

Araújo, Claudio G. FACSM1; Araújo, Denise S M S2

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: May 2005 - Volume 37 - Issue 5 - p S234
D-22: Free Communication/Poster – Clinical Exercise Testing: THURSDAY, JUNE 2, 2005 2:00 PM - 5:00 PM ROOM: Ryman C2

1CLINIMEX, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

2UNIRIO, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


Flexibility defined as the maximum physiological passive range of motion of a given joint movement is one the major components of health-related physical fitness. Since flexibility is specific for both joints and movements, evaluation methods should comprise these aspects. Common sense and cross-sectional data suggest that flexibility decreases with aging. However, despite its relevance, scarcy data are available regarding long-term follow-up of flexibility individual profiles.

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To evaluate long-term flexibility profile in a well-controlled sample.

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Ten women of three generations from the same family and median age 6 years (range: 2 to 54 years) were followed up to a median of 17 years (range: 7 to 18 years). Each woman was measured three times (minimum2 and maximum 5) during the study. Flexibility was assessed by Flexitest, a dimensionaless scoring system, in which each one of the 20 selected body joint movements is scored from 0 to 4, based on the passive range of motion as compared with evaluation standard maps (Araújo, Human Kinetics, 2004). The individual movement scores were added for an overall flexibility index, Flexindex (range: 0 to 80 points). Flexindex results were also expressed in percentiles for corresponding ages of the 10 women at different measurement times.

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As a group, the women tend to be highly flexible, with an mean Flexindex percentile of 83 at the end of follow-up. Three of the 10 women had at least one Flexindex scores above 70 points, chracterizing generalized hypermobility. Mean Flexindex long-term changes were quite modest - initial: 59±3 vs final: 57±3 (p>.05), but considerably variable for individuals (range from - 22 to 7). Five of the women presented significant changes with time (more than 4 points) - two increased and three decreased. Remarkbly, the oldest one, who shifted from sedentary to regularly active (54 to 72 years of age) was able to show minimal Flexindex changes, increasing from percentile 32 to 55 in the age-gender percentile norms. Interestingly, two of three hypermobile girls were able to keep almost identical flexibility profiles from early childhood to adolescence (percentile 99). In none of the 20 joint movements, a definitive decrease with aging could be detected in all women.

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At least in women with some genetic background sharing and with an overall flexibility above the average, individual long-term flexibility profile are quite unpredictable, resulting, very likely, of physical activity and injuries pattern at the measurement times. It seems that hypermobility may persist in young girls at least until late adolescence, which may be useful for dancing and other sport modalities.

©2005The American College of Sports Medicine