Joe Pilates said: ”If your spine is stiff at 30, you are old: if it is completely flexible at 60, you are young” He had a very good point, and sadly it is frequently the case that younger people start to lose their flexibilty as soon as they go to school. Our children have to sit on their chair for the greater part of the day, leaning over their work and who doesn’t want to slump in front of a screen and play a video game, or spend a few hours on Snapchat after a tough day at school? By the time we are young adults the damage is done, although not undo-able.

In the olden days when I was a gym instructor, we always did a full induction with newbies. The most common customer objective would be “I’d like to be able to touch my toes” often followed by “but my hamstrings are too tight so I’ll never be able to do that”.

The human body is a really remarkable organism and I believe that if you want to achieve a physical feat, no matter how seemingly trivial, persistent regular training will get you there. For most people, simple functional movements can be relearned at any time of life. The trouble is we often don’t know where to begin.

Joseph H Pilates was right. It all starts with the spine and the deep muscles which both support the vertebrae and instigate movement through the spinal column. If your spine is stiff and immobile, no amount of hamstring stretches will help to make you flexible. Imagine you had a meter of elastic but the 50 centimetres in the middle of it were stuck with thick hard toffee, you can stretch that all you like but it’s never going to give. The only way to get your elastic to flex and stretch throughout it’s length is to gradually work on the toffee until it’s pliable.

Our spine is an amazingly designed piece of engineering. The spine can twist, turn, bend sideways and backwards, so that we can pick things up, see who’s behind us and and look at the stars. The spine needs to move through a range of movement to become strong and flexible. When you move, the muscles which are attached to the spine exert a pull against the bone and increases bone density. We owe it to our health to keep our spine mobile.

- Patricia Issitt is a movement therapist and Pilates instructor based in York.