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Be Flexible

Posted by bmagnus On June - 3 - 2009

A good exercise regimen should include working on 3 key fitness components: cardio-vascular (“aerobic”) training, strength training, and flexibility training. Most people tend to skimp on flexibility, and that’s a shame. Working on flexibility is something almost everyone can do, with no equipment whatsoever, it can make even everyday tasks easier, improve circulation, and relieve stress. It can even improve your golf game.

Flexibility is the ability of a joint to move freely through it’s range of motion. It is effected by the structure of the joint itself, the elasticity of the muscles and connective tissues involved, and even the skin over the joint. Because genetics is a factor, we have a tendency to dismiss flexibility as something we either have or don’t have. The fact is that we can train to be more flexible. Indeed, if we don’t train, we risk losing flexibility as we get older. As the saying goes, “use it or lose it.”

Current thinking is that you shouldn’t try to stretch cold muscles, but rather warm up a little first — perhaps with a few minutes of jogging in place, jumping jacks, or some other light-to-moderate activity. Some sources recommend starting with lighter, static stretches to warm up. There are a lot of different stretches you can do, depending on your fitness level and current flexibility. There are plenty of resources both on the internet and in libraries or bookstores. There are probably even classes near you in stretching-intensive activities such as yoga.

There are three important things to remember no matter what stretches you do. First, be sure to hold each stretch long enough. It’s not enough to quickly touch your toes and think you’re done. Stay down there for a while! Some of your bigger muscle groups might justify staying in a stretch for 30-60 seconds.

Second, breathe. It is really important to remember to inhale and exhale as you stretch. You should feel your muscles getting a little longer when you exhale. That’s a sign that you’re doing it right. Enjoy how it feels.

The third thing to remember is to get “comfortably uncomfortable.” Stretching should never actually hurt, but you should definitely feel tension in the area you are trying to stretch. Like any other exercise, you won’t get the best results unless you push yourself out of the comfort zone.

Just like we can get stronger over time, we can get more flexible over time. It does take effort, but it will pay off in improved performance and improved quality of life. And improved quality of life is the essence of anti-aging.

One Response to “Be Flexible”

  1. […] and generally better health. And of course, for the best results, don’t forget a bit of flexibility training […]