Keeping your body fit and strong through the use of endurance and resistance training is paramount to living a healthy and fulfilling life. However, too many people hit the weights, or run for miles without considering their flexibility outside of some simple stretches at the end of a training session. The reality is that flexibility is equally as important as strength when it comes to protecting yourself against injury, keeping yourself independent and enhancing your body’s physical capabilities.
Incorporating an effective flexibility training program into your general weekly workout routine will have numerous health benefits for you to enjoy, including:
Decreased risk of injury - When you work on increasing your flexibility you are also helping protect the joints of your body, such as your hips and knees, from injury. The more flexible your muscles are the less likely you are to sustain an injury whilst exercising or in an accident.
Increased movement - This doesn’t just refer to being able to do the splits (though this is something you can work towards!), flexibility in your torso and limbs means increased all round movement. Which means that simple movements such as bending, twisting and climbing will seem more effortless.
Improved athletic performance - Along with the increased movement comes an improved athletic performance. It doesn't matter what you enjoy, whether it is rock climbing, netball, soccer or horse riding, increased flexibility will enhance your ability to perform well in any athletic activity.
Improved balance and posture - Increased flexibility works to enhance movement, but it also works to improve posture. When you challenge and stretch your muscles, you are also working to balance and harmonise your left and right side. In doing this you are helping support your hips and spine, which in turn supports good posture.
Increased blood flow - Each time you stretch your muscles you are stimulating blood flow into the muscles fibres, as well as through your entire body. This works to flush extra nutrients throughout your body as well as increasing the rate at which toxins and waste are discarded.
- Reduced back pain - If you suffer from back ache or sore shoulders, then stretching is a must for you. By enhancing your flexibility throughout your whole body you are supporting strength and posture, which in turn works to reduce the amount of muscular pain you experience.
The problem with forgetting to stretch, or skipping flexibility altogether, is that our movement becomes more restricted as we age. As soon as you hit your mid 20’s your body starts to lose some of the strength and flexibility that came so naturally when you were younger. However, don’t let this put you off, it is never too late to start!
Try a yoga or Pilates class, or simply incorporate your own stretching, either after a workout or simply as an exercise session on its own. Remember, you are naturally more flexible in the afternoon/evening times, so it might seem more challenging in the morning. Though doing a morning stretch session will help limber you up for the rest of your day!
It doesn’t matter if you struggle to touch your toes now, or can’t bring your knees towards your chest, you will be surprised how quickly you can remedy this simply by incorporating regular flexibility training into your weekly workout schedule.