Stretch it out
If someone were to ask you to bend down and touch your toes, could you do it? How about sitting pretzel-legged? Maybe you’re thinking, “Yeah right! The last time I could do that was in grade school.” The reality is as we age, we lose that bendy and limber ability. The good news is you can help get it back by following a stretching routine on a regular basis.
What is flexibility?
Flexibility refers to the end range of motion in a joint or series of joints and length in the muscles that cross those joints. Having good flexibility helps us carry out every day activities such as standing up from a chair, lifting a box from the ground to the car or sweeping a floor. In addition, flexibility is important when performing exercise – both aerobic and strength training. Athletes need good flexibility in order to execute at their full potential. There is scientific evidence that the incidence of injury decreases when people include flexibility training in their routines due to the enhanced ability to move through a wider range of motion.
What are the benefits of being flexible?
- Reduces stress in the exercising muscles and releases tension developed during workouts.
- Assists with posture by balancing the tension placed across the joint by the muscles that cross it. Proper posture minimizes stress and maximizes the strength of all joint movements.
- Reduces the risk of injury during exercise and daily activities because muscles are more pliable.
- Improves performance of everyday activities as well as performance in exercise and sports.
- Reduces low back pain which can be caused by tight hamstrings and hip flexor muscles.
How do you get more flexible?
Just like exercise, flexibility training has to be done on a regular basis to get the full benefits. According the American College of Sports Medicine, stretching should be performed at least two days a week. There are a number of different ways to stretch. The most popular method is static stretching. This is the type of stretching where you hold the position to the point of discomfort – not pain – for at least 30 seconds. Repeat the stretch one to three more times per muscle group. It is very important that you do not “bounce” while performing static stretching, because it can increase your likelihood of injury. An example of a static stretch would be sitting on the ground with your legs extended and trying to touch your toes by bending forward at the waist. This stretches your hamstrings, calves and lower back muscles. The best time to perform static stretching is right after an activity or while your muscles are warmed up. The next time someone asks you if you can touch your toes, you can smile and nod, while you confidently demonstrate.