A lot of people think that flexibility is something you either have or you don’t have. This is a huge misconception that really holds people back when it comes to their health.
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Being flexible is not just for showing off in front of your friends, it’s important when it comes to our overall health and fitness. And since flexibility isn’t a trendy new type of fitness, it tends to get ignored by many fitness gurus. This is unfortunate as study after study shows the importance of flexibility for the mind and body.
Here are a few of the top benefits of incorporating flexibility into your life:
• Injury Prevention: The less flexible you are the more you’re prone to injuries. This is because the tendons around the body’s muscles become stiff when you don’t stretch regularly. These tight muscles reduce range of motion. Injuries happen when your body finds itself moving through a range of motion that is more than it can handle.
• Reduced Pain: Tight muscles all over the body, especially in the hamstrings and lower back, can cause chronic pain. By regularly stretching and staying flexible you can prevent those muscles from tightening.
• Enhanced Range of Motion: Stretching allows you to increase the length of your muscles. This in turn affects everyday aspects of your life, such as bending down to pick something up or reaching overhead to grab something out of a cupboard. Additionally, it will have a major impact on exercise and athletic activities. If exercising is a daily habit of yours then you will certainly notice the difference.
• Better Blood Flow: When the body’s muscles are tense, it restricts circulation. This in turn will inhibit important nutrients and oxygen from reaching the needed places. However, when the muscles are relaxed it helps promote good blood flow throughout those muscles.
• Improved Posture: Because of our modern lifestyles, which includes sitting in front of computers and staring at cell phones, our postures suffer tremendously. It’s therefore essential to regularly stretch the muscles of the back, neck and shoulders to help keep our body’s upright. Not only does this help us look healthier, but it will also prevent injuries down the road.
• Lower Stress Levels: Having less tension in the body can reduce levels of stress. Additionally, stretching is a solitary experience that can allow you to focus on the body and not the endless thoughts flowing through your mind.
How to Improve Your Flexibility
The great thing about flexibility is that it’s a relatively straightforward concept. The only difficult part is staying consistent! If you can make a concerted effort to stretch everyday then your flexibility will drastically improve.
BTW – Elasticity is DIFFERENT from Flexibility – Read the basics here
A good rule of thumb is to stretch for at least 10 minutes a day. This is something anyone should be able to implement into their daily routine. A good idea is to stretch first thing in the morning. This way you will have no excuses to make later on in the day if you forget to stretch.
You may also want to stretch periodically throughout the day. For example if you work a desk job you should get up every hour, if not more, to stretch your shoulders, upper back and legs. Stretching several times a day is not necessary, but if you notice that you’re starting to feel tight in some places then take a few minutes to stretch everything out.
In terms of your stretching routine, you should start with a full body routine. This will help to promote overall wellness. But if you have specific pain issues then focus on those areas in particular, devoting more time to those muscles than other areas.
A Daily Stretching Routine
Stretching routines are easy to follow, and they’ll prevent you from being clueless and not knowing what to do. The routine below will target all parts of your body for a brief period and serve as a good starting point for stretching.
Make sure to take each stretch through its full range of motion, but don’t try and push it too much because that may cause an injury. Over time you will be able to increase the range of motion as you will have become more flexible.
For the individual stretches make sure to do them in a slow, controlled manner. Don’t rush them, as that defeats the purpose of the stretch. Hold them for about 10-20 seconds each when starting out.
1. Overhead Shoulder Stretch: Reach your arm straight up in the sky, then bend at the elbow to place your hand behind your head. Place your other arm on your elbow and pull gently. Repeat with the other arm.Follow @AboutLifting
2. Triceps Stretch: Reach your arm all the way across your body and keep it parallel to the ground. Place the other arm across the triceps or shoulder and pull gently. Repeat with the other arm.
3. Doorway Chest Stretch: Stand in a doorway, bend your elbows, and hold your arms upright and place them along the door. Lean forward and let your arms stay on the doorway, giving a deep stretch to your chest.
4. Side Bend Stretch: Reach your arm straight overhead, and then bend your torso to one side, reaching your arm as far as you can in the direction you’re bending. Repeat with the other side.
5. Lower Back Stretch (Cobra): Lie on the floor on your stomach. Place your hands at your shoulders and slowly lift your chest off the ground by pushing off with your hands. Keep your head up and look forward.
6. Hamstring Stretch: Sitting on the ground, put your legs out straight in front of you. Lean forward and reach your arms as far forward as you can.
7. Quad Stretch (Runner’s Stretch): With one leg straight forward, pull the other leg behind you to the point that the heel of your foot is by your rear. Lean back slightly and hold. Repeat with the other leg.
8. Hip Stretch (Butterfly): Sit up straight with your feet together. Pull them in close to your groin. Lean forward and hold.
There you have it. A basic stretching routine head to toe! This can be done it just 10 minutes a day and it will really improve your posture and mood.
Also Read: Truth About Stretching