Ever look at a baby and wonder in awe how you ever were that flexible, since now you can barely even touch your toes? As babies, we are the most flexible we will ever be. We can squat for hours, and put our feet in our mouths with ease. Most people think that losing flexibility is a natural part of getting older, but unless there is an injury of a joint involved, lack of flexibility is usually due to inactivity. For example, if you sit at a desk all day without stretching out afterwards you will automatically get tighter in your hip flexors, lower back, and shoulders.
You may ask yourself why you should care about flexibility. No one’s asking you to do the spilt anyway, right? But, flexibility is just as important as strength training and cardio when it comes to having an overall healthy body.
Some benefits of being more flexible include:
- injury prevention
- easier time doing daily activities (picking up grocery bags, etc)
- increased range of motion of the joints
- prevention of arthritis and other illnesses
- better blood circulation
- less body pain (back pain, headaches, muscle-aches)
- stress relief (due to relaxed muscles)
- better posture
- easier time strength training due to your body being able to flow and move more freely, allowing for better positioning when lifting
- and fall prevention as you get older, due to better balance and being able to catch yourself more easily
(According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one out of every three Americans over the age of 65 falls each year. In people over the age of 65, falls account for 87% fractures, and are the second leading cause of spinal cord and brain injury)
Some people are naturally more flexible than others due to genetics, but if you happen to be part of the regular ol’ “non-flexible clan,” flexibility can be learnt with regular daily training. One can definitely teach old muscles new tricks.
How flexible you need to be depends on your lifestyle. On a scale of 1-10, the average person’s flexibility level should be somewhere in the middle.
How to Get Flexible, and Stay that Way
To gain flexibility, one should spend about 30 minutes a day stretching. Spend about 10-15 minutes of stretching that focuses on the major muscle groups (calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, hip-flexors, shoulders, neck, and chest). Then, spend another 10-15 minutes focusing on specific areas that your are tight in.
This may seem like a lot of time to devote to stretching, but according to a study published in the Journal of Strength Conditioning and Research once your desired level of flexibility is achieved, stretching only needs to be done 2-3 times a week in order to maintain that flexibility. This suggests that after a month or so of commitment, one can slack off a bit and still reap the benefits. Just don’t stop all together. The same study found that those who stopped stretching completely lost about 7% of their hips’ range of motion within a month.
Stretching Tips to Remember:
- Only stretch after a proper warm up. Try 10-15 minutes of jogging, biking, or jumping jacks. If you’re tight on time stretch after your shower or bath. The warm water will loosen up your muscles and make it safe to stretch.
- Start each stretch slowly, exhaling as you gently stretch the muscle. You can push the stretch further as you feel the muscle relax.
- Try to hold each stretch for at least 10 to 30 seconds or until you feel the muscle give/relax.
- Don’t bounce.
- Breath. Don’t hold your breath.
- If it hurts, you’re pushing the stretch too far.
Resistance bands are great tool to help support you in your stretches, allowing you to hold positions longer and take the stretches further. The elastic nature of resistance bands allow you to contract against a them, creating a larger stretch, and bands have multiple resistance levels to allow for advanced stretching. Bands are also light and easily portable which allows you to take them with you to work, travels, etc.
Astone Fitness is presently offering a special on our Physical Therapy Kit.
This package includes all you need for ultimate stretching:
– The Stretch Buddy Purple Ripcord
– The Stretch Buddy Purple Leg Cord
– Stretch Buddy Flat Band Set
– and the Stretch Buddy Stretch Strap
As you can see, flexibility training provides many important benefits that cannot be achieved with regular exercise. Without proper flexibility you are missing a key component in achieving a well rounded healthy body. Be sure to add stretching to your regular exercise program.
If you suffer from osteoporosis, arthritis, or chronic back pain be sure to talk to your doctor, or a licensed physical therapist before starting a flexibility program.
For more tips on stretching read – Stretching- Do You Do It?
Sources : webmd.com, 4-womenshealth.com, acefitness.org, livestrong.com, stronglifts.com, fitness19.com, medicinenet.com