By Carrie Dunlea
Improving flexibility is a goal for many people, not just athletes, daily exercise devotees or weekend warriors. No matter what age you are or what your athletic ability is, taking steps to improve and maintain flexibility has numerous benefits that can pay dividends throughout the years.
Yes, it can be uncomfortable and take too much time, but the benefits will be worthwhile. According to documentation by Harvard Medical School, well-stretched muscles more easily reach their full range of motion. That benefits athletes by improving their performance, and it can also improve daily life for non-athletes by making it easier to reach, bend or stoop to perform everyday tasks.
As beneficial as being physically flexible can be, many people, no matter how hard they try, struggle to improve or maintain their
flexibility. Fortunately, there are some ways that you can improve your flexibility and enjoy all of the benefits that a full range of motion provides.
• Choose the right activities. Harvard Medical School notes that activities that lengthen and stretch muscles can help active people reduce their risks for injury while potentially preventing back pain and issues that may affect their balance. When done correctly,
yoga can improve balance and flexibility plus the additional side health benefits of stress reduction which makes one more flexible because certain muscles are not tense. Pilates is another option, whether on a reformer or simply using your own body weight, that can loosen and lengthen your muscles.
• Drink more water. Drinking water helps to prevent tightness and muscle cramps. In fact, tightness or muscle cramps in the large
muscles of the leg may be indicative of the early stages of dehydration. Drinking plain water is the most effective way to stay and remain hydrated. Don’t count coffee, tea or sports drinks as water. Caffeine and sugar in these drinks do not aid in muscle recovery. Caffeine is a diuretic, and while diuretics cause the increased passing of urine, they also decrease the amount of water that is absorbed by the kidneys, potentially contributing to dehydration. Drink plenty of water before, during and after workouts.
• Start over after an extended break. If it’s been awhile since you last worked out, resist the temptation to push yourself when returning to the gym. Start slowly with small weights, exercise bands, or simply using your own body weight. Putting too much strain on muscles that have been sedentary for an extended period of time can cause aches, pains and even injury. If you go too hard too quickly, your muscles will get tight, reducing your flexibility.
• Get up and go. Poor flexibility may be a byproduct of your lifestyle. If you’re sedentary, you are less likely to enjoy a full range of motion than those people who are more active. Get off the couch when spending time at home, and if you work in an office, take routine breaks to stand up, walk around or take the stairs at a quick pace several times a day to increase your cardio and loosen up your leg muscles.
Poor flexibility can be painful and inconvenient, but it doesn’t have stay that way. Assess areas of your body that need improvement, then get moving and improve your quality of life.