What is flexibility and why is it important?
Flexibility is the ability of our muscles to stretch temporarily. In everyday life, this is important as it allows us to perform essential daily activities and movements such as bending down to pick things up or leaning over to reach an object, without pain or discomfort. As we get older our flexibility naturally decreases so it becomes even more important to make regular stretching part of our routine.
You should spend a few minutes stretching before and after every training session as well as trying to make it part of your daily life. Find a time in your day that you are able to commit a few minutes to stretching, for example in the morning when you get up or at night before you go to bed.
Breathing is an important part of flexibility training. Explore different breathing techniques and practice these as often as you can – breathing helps to relax your body and mind, improves circulation, and strengthens the diaphragm and core muscles.
Dynamic stretches should ideally be performed before strength training as this type of stretching not only improves flexibility but also works on increasing the range of movement. It involves moving while performing a stretch rather than holding it still in one position. Examples of dynamic stretches are swinging your legs forwards and backwards or marching with high knees whilst swinging your arms.
Static stretches are perfect as part of a cool down but can also be very beneficial if performed on their own; in this case, always ensure you warm up for 5-10 minutes beforehand. Static stretching involves stretching a certain muscle or group of muscles and holding in one position for a prolonged period – usually around 15-30 seconds.
It is always best to consult a fitness professional for advice on the best ways to stretch based on your fitness levels and current flexibility. Stretching should be done gradually as injuries can occur if care is not taken. People often underestimate flexibility training, thinking that it is gentle exercise, however correct technique and posture is just as important during stretching as it is in any other type of exercise in order to reduce the risk of injuries and to enable you to reap the full benefits.
It really is never too late to start trying to improve your flexibility – a minimum of around 15 minutes 2 or 3 times a week can make a big difference and help you to experience an improved quality of life as many everyday activities become easier to achieve.
Disclaimer: The content of this page is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. References available on request.