The Importance of Being Flexible

It is important to maintain flexibility as best as possible. One way to age gracefully, as the saying goes, is to improve the elasticity of your joints!

Flexibility is the ability of your joints and body parts to execute their full range of motion. It’s also one of the five components of fitness, as I describe in my book, Finding Life’s Secret Sauce. Flexibility is required in all your day-to-day activities and can improve your performance, whether you are walking to the train station or picking a pencil off the floor. Being flexible allows your muscles to remain mobile. Among the lengthy list of things that decline with age, flexibility is one of them. Muscles shorten and tighten just as everything else seems to be loosening up and heading downward. What this means, practically speaking, is that we move more slowly, walk less straight and stiffen more quickly and easily. And unfortunately, this increases the likelihood for injury. Unless we work to increase flexibility, our range of motion and elasticity will decline. Stretching is clearly the best way to improve flexibility and here’s why.

Stretching improves circulation. Increasing the blood flow to your muscles helps supply them with the nutrients they need and helps remove the waste they collect from a strenuous workout. This means you can recover more quickly from workouts and heal injuries faster.

Stretching can relieve stress. By relaxing tense muscles, you help alleviate the tension that accumulates during a hectic day. Stretching is also a great way to give yourself a time out when you need one.

Stretching improves the range of motion of your joints. As mentioned, balance and flexibility decrease with age. Good range of motion keeps you moving and in better balance, thus making you less prone to falls and potential injuries.

Stretching can alleviate lower back pain. Often, low back problems are caused by muscle tightness in the quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors and low back muscles. Stretching these muscles can help eliminate the back pain, or at least lessen it. If you don’t know how to stretch properly, it’s worth taking the time to find someone who does. That could be a certified trainer, an employee at the gym or your old track coach. And if you find yourself getting bored doing the same stretch routine on a daily basis, try Pilates or yoga. Yoga tones your muscles and increases flexibility, while Pilates improves your range of motion, flexibility, circulation, posture and abdominal strength. You can stretch anytime, anyplace. If you take deep breaths while you’re at it, you’ll experience even greater benefits. So what are you waiting for? Reach down and touch those toes!

Melinda Hinson