You know for a fact that many of you are not getting the exercise that you need. You are not nearly as flexible now as you were in your teens and your twenties. Do you know that stretching is an exercise that has many benefits for your body? Stretches increase flexibility of your body, inside and out!
In this article I would like to discuss: What flexibility is. Amazing ways that increasing your flexibility benefits your heart, and your body. Additionally, how do you lose flexibility in the first place, and how can you get it back?
What is Flexibility?
The Dictionary definition of flexibility is “the quality of bending easily without breaking” It could refer to a tree, or a personality, or it could refer to your body. What we are talking about today, flexibility relates to your range of motion for any of your joints.
A baseball player is considered to be at his peak at the age of 29. Why is that? Well in part it is because by that time he begins to lose some of the flexibility he had in his teens and early twenties.
What is Stretching?
Stretching is an exercise. It is done when you deliberately want to lengthen your muscles to increase your flexibility and range of motion.
Just imagine, you are sitting at your desk. You have been working on your project for a long time. Your shoulders tighten and you neck begins to get sore.
What do you do? I can see you right now. You lift your arms up high, arch your back, and give a big stretch, or you might get up from your chair, stretch and walk around a bit.
Stretching Is a Good Way to Help You Maintain Your Flexibility
According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
“By implementing an integrated stretching routine, baseball players can increase multi-planar dynamic flexibility, thus helping to maintain healthy muscles and connective tissue, as well as reduce the risk of injury.”
You may not aspire to become a professional baseball player, but you do expect to stay active long after your twenty-ninth birthday rolls around!
What Benefit Does Flexibility Have on Your Heart?
There was a study that found that women who were more flexible had 7% less stiffness of the arteries than their less flexible counter-parts. When you are more flexible it helps your arteries to become more flexible as well. By keeping the arteries more flexible, it improves the function of your heart.
It stands to reason that the more flexible you are on the outside, the more flexible your inside becomes as well.
I found another article that spoke of research suggesting that stretching can help protect you from heart diseases and stroke. According to this article, three months of passive stretching helps improve blood flow. Arteries become dilated and more flexible, according to a report by Italian scientists.
7 Ways Stretching Benefits Your Body
- First of all, stretching releases muscle tightness and excess tension. In this way it returns the muscle to its natural resting state as it also reduces stress.
- Secondly, it feels good, mentally, and physically. It improves your mood, relaxes you, and gives you a positive outlook.
- Third, it reduces risk of injuries and muscle soreness. It is easier to keep your balance, the more flexible you are. You have seen ice skaters who keep their balance while doing amazing twists and turns. Many seniors fall, and it is often because they are tight in their shoulders and hips.
- Fourth, you get better mobility, and ease of movement with an increased range of motion.
- Fifth, it enhances muscle strength and coordination.
- Sixth it results in better posture
- Last, but most importantly for your body is that It increases blood supply and nutrients to your tissues Stretching keeps your blood from pooling, by re-circulating it throughout your body.
How Do You Lose Flexibility in the First Place?
Did you ever think about it? Surgeons have a tough job! They must stand in one place, often for hours at a time. They must hold delicate instruments doing delicate surgeries. Did you ever wonder if their muscles become tight? I wonder if they get a sore back or sore neck from standing in that position for so long.
There are many occupations like that where you must hold your muscles in one position for an extended period. Some jobs on assembly lines may face similar situations of standing in one place doing repetitive tasks.
As you age or as you hold your muscles in one position for long periods of time, your muscles gradually shorten and become less elastic.
But there is HOPE!
Now is the Time for a Good Stretch
Start slowly and practice regularly, and you can increase your range of motion. Your range of motion is the distance and direction your joint can move. Research shows that by going through your full range of motion, you can increase your strength.
As you age, you are not nearly as active as you were as a child. Sit back and watch children in a playground. They use their joints and muscles in a way that most likely you no longer do.
By being sedentary, your muscles tense and shorten and it becomes easier to fall.
Range of motion exercises are used when working with those in rehabilitation after injury or accidents.
Stretches Increase Flexibility
There are many exercise programs you can participate in to become more flexible. I have seen some people of a ripe old age who still seem as spry as a youngster.
But it does not happen by chance. They keep active. I know many older folks who use Leslie Sansone Walking DVDs, tai chi or many other apps or YouTube channels to stay active and flexible. I know DVDs are going the way of the dodo bird but try to see what you can find on your cell phone or tablet. Walking is one of the safest, easiest ways to stay flexible.
Even if you think you cannot exercise, you can find YouTube videos of chair exercises. There are many places to start. With regular diligence, you will be surprised how far you can progress. Stretching can actually help you feel better as you age.
Stretching and Back Pain
There are many causes for back pain. You must work with your doctor to find the right solution for yours. But many times an exercise program designed to stretch and strengthen you back and core muscles can help heal lower back pain and prevent a repeat episode.
Develop a customized exercise program under expert supervision. It should be done to suit your body’s needs. Stretch regularly and gently without bouncing during each stretch. Bouncing can damage the tissue in your body.
Improving hip flexibility and core stability as well as lengthening back muscles by stretching can help reduce lower back pain. There are some easy yoga stretches for sore muscles.
To Reduce or Prevent Muscle Stiffness
- Practice good posture
- Provide an ergonomically friendly workspace for yourself
- Take regular breaks
- Eat a healthy diet
Yoga, Pilates, tai chi, etc. I use several stretching DVDs by Miranda Esmonde White. She has quite a number of DVDs that she has created to help you stay flexible.
- Tai chi
- Resistance Bands
A certified personal trainer can help you design a stretching program to meet your specific needs. Stretching after a warm shower assists your muscles as they respond best to a warm environment. Practice Regularly. Frequency of stretching is what brings the results. To have a flexible body you must make it a daily part of your life.
Use the Proper Technique
Warm up First
You risk injuring your muscles if you begin stretching without warming up first. One way to warm up would be to walk briskly and gently pump your arms as you walk. Do this for about 5 minutes.
A Dynamic Stretch
A dynamic stretch helps to warm up your muscles for action. You have seen a baseball player swinging a bat or a pitcher winding up as if to pitch a ball. These are dynamic stretches and should be done before the game begins – before a workout.
A Static Stretch
A static stretch is held for up to 60 Seconds To lengthen tissues safely, takes time. Time your stretches to see how long your stretch lasts. You could do 2 thirty-second stretches or 3 twenty-second stretches. Static stretches are usually done at the end of a workout on muscles that are already warm.
Stretch Each Side of the Body
For example, when you stretch one arm, don’t forget to stretch the other one as well. The same goes for each side and leg, etc.
By bouncing you can create small tears in your muscles (microtears) They can leave scar tissue as the muscle heals. Thus, the scar tissue makes you even less flexible as the muscle tightens even further.
Remember to Breathe
Remember to breathe. Inhale and exhale normally. With each exhale, go deeper into your stretch. The only time you should hold your breathe while you are working out is when you are swimming under water! Keep a good supply of oxygen going to your muscles.
Don’t Force a Stretch
Do not move into pain while doing a stretch. If you feel pain, back off a bit until you are just out of the place of pain. Listen to your body. A stretch should not cause pain. Pain tells you that you are stretching too much, beyond what is safe for your body to do. You do not want to sprain a muscle, tear a ligament, or dislocate a joint. With regular practice you should make progress without moving into the place of pain.
If you have joint or back injuries, or any other health concern, consult with your physician before proceeding with any exercises.
As in All of Life
- Drink about 8 glasses of water a day
- Breathe deeply
- Eat a healthy diet
In this post we have discussed what flexibility is, how stretching benefits your heart and the rest of your body, how you lose flexibility and how to gain it back again.
You don’t have to take a special class to get flexible. Many people simply take a few minutes in the morning or at the end of each day and go through a stretching routine. Stretches increase flexibility. Stretching will relax your muscles and improve your flexibility.
Stretch your muscles from your head to your toes after a warm shower, while your body is still warm, and it will work wonders for you.
Please Leave a Comment
I would love to hear form you. Have you spent time stretching? How can you fit stretching into your daily lifestyle?
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional. No content on this site should be substituted for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare practitioner. The information contained here is for informational purposes only. It is from my research and personal experience.