“Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be bent out of shape!” says a profound quote! Flexibility and mobility are two minimally practiced activities in a fitness regimen because the primary focus is habitually kept on diet and exercise. Paying attention to flexibility and mobility and not allowing it to fall to the wayside can have beneficial implications on your quality of life.
Being flexible is a fundamental part of keeping your body healthy and capable, creating an evenly conditioned body. It is a mainstay of fitness next to muscular strength and building stamina. Sadly, flexibility doesn’t attract the attention it deserves. Simple activities like getting out of bed, lifting up your child and sweeping the floor, all need flexibility. Deterioration in flexibility makes these daily activities a challenge.
Your bendability declines with age. A sedentary lifestyle does nothing to improve flexibility. And over time, body movements and posture habits leading to reduced mobility are developed. Stiff muscles decrease range of movement in your joints. This hinders day to day normal movements like bending, twisting and reaching for something. Sitting for long periods of time, hunched over the computer has become the norm; this can overstretch certain muscles making them weak. Coupled with natural loss of age related muscle elasticity, a quick or hurried motion could result in a strain or tear.
But you need not give in to aging. Stretching your muscles regularly helps keep away this loss of mobility. This means that you need not be dependent and can stay independent with the transition into senior phase. Moreover, the chances of experiencing occasional and chronic back pain are reduced over a lifetime. Stretching your muscles regularly improves suppleness and this will improve your performance in sports and daily activities, decreasing your risk of injuries.
The more frequently you stretch, the quicker the gains, though big changes can take time depending on your age and activity levels. Stretching improves your posture, promotes oxygenation, leaving you refreshed physically and mentally. A muscle that has been worked upon by stretching is suppler and pliable. To promote mobility around your joints, dynamic stretches are done at the beginning of your workout. These stretches involve continuous movement and are repeated 8-10 times. These drills increase blood flow to your muscles, providing them with oxygen and nutrients, lubricate your joints, promote muscle elasticity and help the joint achieve its full range of motion safely and effortlessly. The stretches here are not held for any amount of time.
Here are a few points to remember when you stretch at the end of your exercise session:
- Ease into each stretch and feel the muscles relax. Hold each stretch for 15-20 seconds. Exhale as the muscle lengthens to assist in relaxation. And then breathe comfortably while holding the position.
- For your stretches to be comprehensive, include your back, sides, front, arms, neck and a twist.
Sr. Faculty & Sr. Fitness Counsellor