Updated: Jun 23
Physical fitness. It’s advertised, it’s talked about, and it’s considered a way of life.
We are all familiar with the positive influence physical activity has on our well-being and why we should strive for its benefits while putting our running shoes on at the crack of dawn. Physical activity is not only a means of improving strength, boosting immunity, and promoting a healthy lifestyle. For some, it is an opportunity to socialize, meditate, and conquer obstacles by leveraging the immediate benefits exercise has on the brain, such as improved thinking and dopamine boost.
Although countless published studies are showcasing the advantages of adopting just 10 to 15 minutes of moderate physical activity daily, there are as many studies that show the positive influence flexibility has on our physical health as well.
The importance of being flexible
Poor flexibility can cause joint aches, lower back pain, and impaired balance. Inelastic muscles can lead to injuries when attempting a sudden, simple activity such as picking something up from the ground or attempting to reach a tall kitchen element.
Joints, as well as bones and muscle tissue, require movement to maintain strength and preserve our overall physical health. Among other things, a sedentary way of life causes inadequate flexibility, which leads to bad posture and, in a lot of cases, pain.
Luckily, the journey to improved muscle flexibility can start anytime and anyplace. The internet is jam-packed with tutorials, flexibility routines, and advice. There are endless sources on the topic, and the promise of a more flexible future is everywhere. Nevertheless, it all starts with a stretch.
Stretching reduces the tightness of soft tissues, making them longer, increasing the range of motion, and ultimately leading to a better quality of movement.
Whether a professional or a recreational athlete, stretching and flexibility exercises should be an essential part of the training routine. Likewise, people who are just looking for ways to enhance physical fitness are encouraged to take up stretching as a daily practice.
There are two primary types of stretches, dynamic and static stretches. Static stretching is performed while standing, sitting, or laying, without movement. Dynamic stretching involves contracting muscles and attempting to push the joints through the full range of motion, combining movement and velocity. The choice about which type of stretch is better depends on the type and time of the workout routine and can also be a matter of individual preference.
3 stretches to improve overall flexibility
One thing to remember before stretching is to warm up the muscles, as when warm, they are less likely to tear.
Scissor hamstring stretch
Start this stretch in a standing position, and put one foot behind you, approximately two feet apart. Don’t lock the knees, but keep them straight, then bend forward from the hips. The goal is to touch the floor and pull the upper body forward to deepen the stretch.
Hold the stretch for about half a minute, then switch sides and repeat.
Seated groin stretch
This stretch will improve the flexibility of a muscle group of the medial thigh called the hip adductor, responsible for the stabilization of the pelvis and posture.
Start the stretch in a seated position, bend the knees to the sides, and let the toes touch. Pull the feet in toward the body while flexing the hips and inner thighs. To deepen the stretch, lean forward, keeping the back straight.
Hold this stretch for about 30 seconds, and repeat by preference.
When stretching to improve overall flexibility, it is advised to focus on big muscle groups such as back muscles. This group of muscles is also one of the most common problem areas.
Start the child’s pose stretch by sitting on the knees, toes tucked, and glutes touching the heels. Bend the hips over the knees, arms stretched in front, with glutes still touching the heels. The goal is to rest the forehead on the floor, feeling the flex of back muscles.
Hold this stretch for about 30 seconds.
Some subject matter experts suggest holding a stretch for up to 3 minutes is the best way to reduce the tightness of soft tissue, whereas others advise that 10 to 30 seconds per stretch is enough. Even for a beginner, adopting a daily stretching routine that doesn’t take up more than 15 minutes is inevitably going to enhance muscle flexibility and reduce the risk of injury. Although, be sure to practice safety and never push a stretch to the point of pain.
Stretching is undoubtedly an excellent way to improve flexibility, but it can also be dangerous if we don’t listen to our bodies and push ourselves over the limit. If you feel more comfortable, consult with a professional about the best stretching routines for your needs.
Notice how muscles feel during and after a stretch, and consider that when determining how long to hold a stretch.