Flexibility Training Who Needs It?

My first experience with flexibility, or should I say inflexibility, came early in my childhood. In dance class, I wasn’t able to kick my leg as high as everyone else, and in cheerleading I struggled with my splits.

Although it never kept me from competing in either activity, because I made up for it in my physical ability, it always made me feel inadequate. Why didn’t it come naturally for me? I spent many hours stretching and just trying to keep up with my more flexible friends. I was more flexible than the boys on the block, but that is only because females are more flexible than males of the same age throughout life due to anatomical differences in joint structures. It wasn’t until I was an adult did I find the answer. Flexibility differs from person to person and from joint to joint. It made me feel better knowing my limitations were due to my individual body make-up, but I was disappointed to know that although there were ways to improve my flexibility, I would never be as flexible as I would have liked.

Whatever your age, here are some tips on maintaining or improving your flexibility and the benefits of doing so.

It is important to know that muscular flexibility is the extent to which range of motion is limited by muscles and tendons. Distinctive connective tissues associated with any joint contribute to joint flexibility. Flexibility is also influenced by the amount of freedom allowed by the ligaments connecting the bones that make up a given joint: the more freedom, the greater the flexibility.

There tends to be a decrease in flexibility as we age. Loss in elasticity in the connective tissues is inevitable due to a decrease in physical activity. This results in shortening of connective tissues and loss of joint mobility. That is why older people and inactive people are more susceptible to injury from vigorous physical activity.

Whatever your age, stretching and improving your flexibility is possible and highly beneficial.

Maintaining or improving flexibility helps to:
prevent injury
reduce severity of injuries
prevent soreness and pain after exercise
improve posture
delay muscular fatigue
increase muscular efficiency
improve performance in daily activities
promote mental and physical relaxation
relieve stress
How can you maintain or improve flexibility?

Participate in regular exercises that promote full range of motion.
Perform stretching exercises daily.
Stretch all major muscle groups.
Hold stretches between 15 and 30 seconds.
Stretch to the limit of movement, not to the point of pain.
Focus on the muscle being stretched.
Don’t hold your breath; remember to breathe while stretching.
Perform resistance training using exercises that use full range of motion.
Before stretching…

Stretching exercises are most beneficial if they are done while the temperature of the soft tissues are elevated. This is usually after a cardiovascular workout or after the muscle toning portion of a routine is complete. It is important to warm up, raising the temperature of the blood, muscles and tendons to prevent injury.

Although stretching techniques are numerous and constantly changing, when done regularly stretching can be very enjoyable and relaxing.

Flexibility training should be an integral part of everyone’s total exercise program to keep the muscles and tissues of the joints pliable and mobile.

A recent flexibility test at the doctor’s office confirmed that I am more flexible than 90 percent of the population in my age group. Which means that my flexibility training is working. The bad news is, the doctor said I will probably need bifocals in the next year!