When it comes to fitness, we tend to look for the best way to burn as many calories as possible. If this is you, you may be ignoring a major component to fitness – flexibility.
“Flexibility is the third pillar of fitness, next to cardiovascular conditioning and strength training,” says David Geier, the director of sports medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina.
Stretching for as little as 10 minutes a day can help prevent injuries from everyday tasks and exercise, and even prevent illness. For example, a 2009 study in the American Journal of Physiology indicated that people ages 40 and older who performed well on a sit-and-reach test (a seated forward bend that measures flexibility) had less stiffness in their arterial walls, an indicator of risk for stroke and heart attack.
When we practice flexibility, our muscles (and tendons) are stretched to improve elasticity. Over time, the body will adapt and allow these muscles to stretch further before injury ensues.
Why is all of this important? As we age we lose muscle mass and begin to use less range of motion within our daily activities, which further decreases flexibility. Luckily, it’s never too late to start stretching and working on your flexibility. Here are five moves to improve your range of motion and keep you moving with ease throughout your day.
Hold each stretch for 30 seconds, then release and repeat three more times. Alternatively, you can treat the workout as a circuit, moving through each stretch and holding for 30 seconds, then repeating each three more times. Note that it’s important to maintain deep breathing through every stretch. If you notice you are holding your breath then release the stretch and continue without going as deep on the next one. Remember: Stretching should never feel painful.
Spend two to three minutes jogging or marching on the spot. This will help to warm up your muscles by increasing blood flow, which will aid flexibility.