When we talk about flexibility, we’re talking about our body’s ability to move. Some people have enough flexibility to do full splits, while others think it’s a good day if they can tie their shoes. Along with cardio and strength training, flexibility is an important component of a well-rounded fitness regimen. Unfortunately, flexibility is an often overlooked and neglected area.
The thing is, it doesn’t have to be—the only thing you need in order to improve your flexibility in your body. No fancy equipment required! Next time you plop down on the couch to enjoy your favorite show, consider moving that party to the floor to get your stretch on. After a few weeks, you’ll have a solid understanding of why flexibility is important. Here are some of the major benefits.
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1. Improves range of motion
Aging, sedentary behavior, and even an active lifestyle cause our muscles and connective tissue to lose mobility, ultimately leading to a decrease in range of motion. Basically, if you fail to stretch adequately, you’ll find you can’t move as freely as you used to—maybe you can’t lift your arm completely overhead, or your legs can no longer fully extend. Regular flexibility training will help maintain and improve your range of motion, allowing you to complete your daily tasks without difficulty.
2. It promotes relaxation
In our stressful, it’s sometimes nice to take a few minutes to relax. Flexibility training in the form of yoga, Pilates, or just plain old static stretching is a fantastic environment for unwinding. The deep breathing associated with this type of training increases oxygen intake, facilitating transport to your cells. Next time you’re feeling tense, take a few moments to stretch and breathe.
3. Reduces aches and pains
Joint pain can often be attributed to tightness in the surrounding muscles. Take, for example, the knee—tight quadriceps muscles have been known to cause the kneecap to track incorrectly. This, in turn, leads to knee pain. Simply taking the time to sufficiently stretch the quads, will minimize (if not obliterate) knee pain. This scenario can transfer to any joint in the body, so try stretching before you reach for the pain pills.
4. Minimizes injury risk
Keeping your muscles and connective tissues loose and limber may help reduce your risk of injury. Keep in mind, however, that too much flexibility can create instability in your joints, which increases your risk of injury—that happy medium is where you want to be.
5. Facilitate blood flow
Regular stretching improves blood flow to your muscles. Chronically tight muscles restrict blood flow, not to mention the oxygen and nutrients the blood is responsible for delivering. This can increase feelings of pain or fatigue in those muscles. If not addressed, it can turn into a continuous issue—stop the cycle with flexibility training that relaxes and removes tension from the muscle to let blood (and all that good stuff it carries) circulate freely.
6. Improve posture
Look around today—how many people do you see with exquisite posture? The sedentary lifestyle so many people lead has caused an epidemic of rounded backs and slumped shoulders. Poor posture not only makes you look like a slouch, but it can also lead to headaches, back pain and a host of other problems. Flexibility training that improves thoracic expansion and shoulder stability will help you straighten up.