The Flexibility Factor

Getting a solid grip on the benefits of being flexible.

If you watch gymnasts perform or have young children who do the splits, you’ve probably been amazed at other people’s flexibility. Flexibility refers to the capacity of your joints and muscles to have complete range of motion. When someone does the splits and is able to put his or her nose to the floor, great flexibility is displayed.

A loss of flexibility restrains your joints and muscles from stretching to their full range of movement. If you aren’t flexible, you may not be able to bend over to pick up something off the floor or reach up into a high cupboard. While the goal of being flexible is not to become an Olympic gymnast, improving your flexibility will better balance the muscles that get used or overused during regular activity, bad posture, or exercise.

What are some of the benefits of maximum flexibility? You’re about to find out.

I never struggled with injury problems because of my preparation – in particular my stretching. –Edwin Moses

Stretching Needed

Your flexibility changes with age and the amount of physical activity you participate in on a daily basis. The stronger your muscles get and the less they are used, the tighter they become, restricting their range of motion. Athletes require a high level of flexibility, while a certain amount of flexibility is required just to perform normal everyday tasks with ease. Whatever your case, flexibility is often a forgotten or neglected aspect of fitness and everyday wellness.

To achieve greater flexibility, a regular stretching routine is needed. The main benefits of stretching are improved athletic performance and decreased risk of injury. However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to why you should shoot for flexibility.

Benefits of Stretching

You may not see the point in stretching if you’re not an athlete, but it has many benefits for all ages and fitness levels. Giving your muscles a good stretch will help to ease tension around your joints. Relaxing your muscles will help to relieve lower back pain. If the muscles that attach to your pelvis are flexible, the stress on your lower back will be reduced. Sound good? There’s more.

Stretching improves your posture and muscular balance. Poor posture places stress on your joints and vertebrae leading to pain and even disability. If you have a bad habit of slouching or aging has had a negative affect on your posture, stretching will help balance your muscles and realign soft tissues. When this occurs, standing and sitting straight takes less effort.

Stretching before and after a workout will help to reduce muscle soreness. The best way to stretch is static stretching. With static stretching, you slowly and gradually elongate your muscle in the farthest position possible without feeling pain. Hold this for 15 to 30 seconds. Doing stretches to lessen muscle soreness will give you more satisfaction with your workout and increase the likelihood that you’ll stick with your exercise program.

By stretching, you also increase blood flow to your joints. The temperature of your tissues will increase which improves circulation and the transport of nutrients, including synovial fluid. This lubricating fluid increases your range of motion and slows joint degeneration.

Another benefit of stretching is improved neuromuscular coordination. This means that nerve impulses traveling to and from the brain and muscles move faster than usual, giving you instant feedback when your body is experiencing positive health benefits or has suffered some sort of injury.
When your body is tense your mind can be also. An example of this is a tension headache. If your neck muscles are tight, blood flow is reduced to your head. Specific stretches can increase blood flow, thereby easing your headaches. Stretching can help to relax both your mind and body, ultimately helping you toimprove your sense of well-being.

Who’s It For?

While not everyone is a fan of the blended exercise technique known as Yogalates, it is a great option for those who are looking for the benefits of both yoga and Pilates, who may be intimidated by the skill required by either exercise alone, or for those who want to try something new and different. Sound like you? Then get to it!

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