9

My mother could touch the heels of both hands on the floor up to the age of 89. She had short legs and a long torso. Is it likely that someone who cannot reach his toes has a short torso and long legs, compared with the norm?

15

Being able to touch the toes depends mainly on two things:

  • hamstring flexibility
  • body proportions (relative length of legs, torso, and arms)

It is not possible to change body proportions, so, to reach the toes, someone with longer legs and shorter torso/arms will need to have more flexibility in the hamstrings. It is possible for anyone to reach that level of flexibility. See:

Size matters (source)

How is hamstring flexibility measured?

In the hamstring flexibility test (also called straight leg raising test, or SLR test), the maximal angle of flexion of the straight leg is measured in a lying down position:

Hamstring flexibility test

The usual classification is:

  • inflexible for below 65 degrees
  • normal for around 80 degrees
  • above average flexibility for 105 degrees or more

What about age?

Muscles tend to become shorter with age, however, maintaining flexibility is quite easy with a little work. Flexibility is much easier to maintain than to acquire. An old person, who has acquired flexibility when he/she was young, will need to spend a lot less time maintaining it, compared to a younger, but inflexible person trying to become flexible. That said, flexibility can be improved in any age, I have seen people in their 30s, 40s, 50s gain much flexibility.

So, can I blame factors that are out of my control, for my inability to reach my toes?

No. The reason is lack of training.

  • While this is a great post, it doesn't answer the OP's question at all. – balu Nov 28 '14 at 14:27
  • 1
    I've edited my post to try to answer the question better. – BKE Nov 28 '14 at 15:25
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It's possible, but I wouldn't call it "likely" in the sense that "this is the most probably reason". The most likely reason is simply lack of flexibility.

If one, over a longer period of time, works on their flexibility, most people (barring certain "disabilities") will be able to reach their toes, or even palm the floor.

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