Do you consistently include flexibility training as part of your fitness? Suggested frequency for stretching is 3 times per week for about 30 minutes. But most people leave it out of their routines, generally because they see it as time consuming, and the benefits aren’t as visible as resistance training or cardio. But this often-overlooked practice is super beneficial and will actually improve all the other areas of your fitness and daily life.
Flexibility allows you to move through a greater range of motion with ease . This not only benefits you in the gym and while playing sports, but also when going about daily living. All throughout our day we bend and reach, often incorrectly and without thought. By increasing your range of motion, you can move with ease and with less chance of injury. Many people find they get hurt not in the gym, but simply while bending to pick something up off the floor, or while reaching into a cabinet.
Stretching increases blood flow to muscles, provides nourishment, and helps the removal of waste products. This can lead to more efficient recovery. Quicker recovery means less down time so you can get back to workouts and sports. Because stretching is slow-moving, it also allows your mind to slow down and relax, which can lower your stress levels.
Limited range of motion can contribute to muscle weakness. This can rob you of muscle growth and progress. The goal is to stay healthy and to continue to improve . Flexibility training helps maintain alignment and balance, which can be thrown off by sports and workouts. I like to relate it to a car. When you’re driving and you feel the steering wheel pull to one side, you know that your car is out of alignment. This affects the performance and your ability to drive your car safely. It’s no different when your body is out of alignment. It will continue to affect your performance negatively until it’s properly and safely addressed. It won’t go away just because it’s ignored.
80% of Americans will deal with back pain at some point in their lives. That’s a staggering number. Studies are showing that stretching and yoga improved function and relieved pain . Flexibility is joint-specific, which means you might be really flexible in one area and not flexible in another. Lack of flexibility in your back and hips can contribute to posture problems, stiffness, and a limited range of motion. Back pain will keep you out of the gym and off the playing field.
Examples of Beneficial Stretching Exercises
Flexibility training is an investment. One where your biggest return will be years later. The sooner in your life you start including flexibility training the better. As we age we become less flexible. Genetics also play a role in our flexibility, so it’s important to realize that you might not have the same ability as someone next to you in yoga class. Unlike some other skills, flexibility should never be a competition.
If you’re a beginner, start slow and only stretch after a thorough warm-up of 5 to 10 minutes. Stretching should be pain-free; however, if you feel mild discomfort, ease off and hold for at least 30 seconds . Never bounce while stretching. Like any beginning exercises program, seek out a professional who can show you specific exercises that fit you and your specific needs. They will advise you on which areas need work and use a series of flexibility assessments, such as the sit-and-reach test , to test your flexibility.
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