Updated: Aug 15
Our joints and muscles grow less flexible as we age. When you wake up after a long night's sleep, you may find that your body is stiff, that you've acquired new aches in your shoulders or back, or that you can't extend your arms as high as you used to without discomfort.
Fortunately, there are methods to reclaim the natural flexibility that most of us had as children.
Flexibility increases circulation, muscular health, and endurance, as well as helping to avoid injury and perhaps even osteoporosis.
Increasing your flexibility requires regular routines and workouts that stretch your muscles and joints.
Tips to Improve Flexibility:
Athletes and fitness enthusiasts have previously been encouraged to stretch in a manner that may actually limit flexibility.
Static stretching, which involves standing motionless and pushing muscles or joints into a stretch, may feel nice in the moment and is excellent for targeting specific muscles, but it does not provide long-term flexibility improvements.
Static stretching puts the body in a tight state, similar to how you would tense up after a car accident, which can lead to muscle injury.
Stretching should be thought of as a calming method rather than static stretching, which involves effort into a stretch. (1)
Do you remember the old adage that individuals who are calm at the time of contact in a vehicle accident are less likely to be harmed than those who brace themselves first? Stretching is the same way.
Place your body in a stretch posture and then slowly ease into it. You should maintain a calm and concentrated state without placing any strain on your muscles or joints. (1)
Performing active stretches rather than static stretches before an exercise is particularly beneficial.
If you feel stiffness in a specific region, though, perform some static stretches to loosen it up before you begin your exercise.
Stretch After Warming Up
Stretching your muscles before warming them up may result in muscular damage or discomfort, this is only theory and isn't backed up by evidence, though.
Instead, make stretching a part of your workout routine.
Begin with brisk walking or other mild aerobic activity.
Stretch all main muscle groups after your heart rate has increased and your muscles have warmed up.
Exercise, such as running, should be done.
Stretch Most Days
Stretching 6 times a week is great for your muscles and body. Do each stretch for at least 20 seconds, as often as you'd like during the day or week.
Even if you aren't doing anything else for fitness, stretching may be useful, one study showed that stretching six times a week is optimal, but you will still gain the advantages even if you stretch only twice a week, three, or four times a week. (2)
Stretching first thing in the morning and last thing before bed is a great way to include stretching into your day.
Avoid Stretching Too Hard
Instead of attempting to hold postures that are difficult to maintain for the duration of the stretch, try to find positions where you can do it comfortably.
Holding a stretch for 30 to 60 seconds while be able to breathe properly is critical. (3)
You've stretched too far if you can't hold it without discomfort or if you can't breathe properly.
Stretching isn't a balancing act, so don't attempt to keep yourself perfectly still throughout a stretch. Instead, extend to the left or right and move about a little.
Take a deep breath and lean into the stretch.
If you wish, try stretching while listening to soothing music and moving your body gently to the beat.
Use Breathing Techniques
Yoga is about mind-body relaxation and discipline, and correct breathing is an important part of that process.
Proper breathing during yoga and other stretches and workouts may actually enhance the stretch by relaxing the body and boosting oxygen flow to the targeted muscles.
Raise your arms as high as you can above your head and take a deep breath to get a sense of how this works. During the inhalation, notice how your arms automatically stretch even higher.
As you stretch, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth as you hold the stretch. As you inhale, your belly, not your chest, should expand.
Try Using Yoga
Yoga is an excellent daily exercise for increasing overall strength and flexibility, since almost every position improves with practise.
It's adaptable to your fitness level and flexibility and may be as simple or as challenging as you choose, all while improving your flexibility.
Some yoga poses adapt to your present degree of flexibility (you only move as far as you can), but your flexibility level improves somewhat each time you practise them.
At first, the difference will be small and difficult to detect, but persevere and you will notice a significant improvement in your flexibility.
Target Specific Goals
There are certain yoga practises that may help you achieve specific flexibility goals, such as performing the splits or touching your toes.
To master additional postures and become more flexible, consider enrolling in a yoga class or following a video programme.
Because yoga is such a popular trend, there are a plethora of free yoga programs and videos accessible online to suit any degree of flexibility.
If you're a novice, look for "beginning yoga for flexibility", or "advanced yoga for flexibility" if you're more experienced.
Stretching is an important part of your fitness journey and routine. It is great for general health and improving flexibility, it may also improve your strength and possibly even muscle growth.
Weight training can shorten muscle length, therefore it's important for weight lifters to stretch often.
Stretching reduces the risk of injury in any activity and improves strength slightly.
Avoid overstretching a muscle. Allow yourself to experience discomfort before releasing the posture and gradually trying again.
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These evidence based tips for improving your flexibility features 3 references, listed below.
1. mbgmovement. 8 Tips To Get More Flexible, Even When You Think You Can't.
2. Joshua Wortman. How Often Do I Need To Stretch?
3. Mayo Clinic. Stretching: focus on flexibility. Healthy Lifestyle. Fitness. (2020, Jan 31) ✔
✔ Citations with a tick indicate the information is from a trusted source.
The information provided in this article is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the guidance of a physician or other competent professional before following advice or taking any supplement. See our terms and conditions.