Flexibility — Use It Or Lose It

As we get older our flexibility deteriorates, often due to a less active lifestyle.  But we need our flexibility to help us perform our daily activities with ease and without aches and pains.  Reduced mobility of joints and tighter muscles create compromised body movements and posture habits that throw our bodies out of alignment leading to joint and back problems.

And the problem is compounded if you are trying to exercise with these compromised body movements.

Stretching should therefore be included in your exercise plan.  Canada’s Physical Activity Guide to Healthy Active Living recommends flexibility training 4 – 7 times a week.

Here’s how to get your stretching in!

1.  Make sure you are stretching for 10 – 20 minutes each time you are active.  That is 5 – 10 minutes before an activity and 5 – 10 minutes after.  Add stretches to your daily walk with the dog, to your tennis game, and of course to your sessions at the gym.

Before exercise your muscles are cold so static stretches (holding a stretch until you feel the muscle(s) release) are not recommended.  Instead use dynamic stretching techniques or mobilization exercises to gradually take a joint to its limit of available ROM (range of motion).  For example leg swings instead of the hurdle stretch before going on a walk or run.  With dynamic stretches remember to start gentle and build intensity to avoid injury.

Static stretches are best after exercise when your muscles are warm and will lengthen more easily.  Hold each stretch for at least 20 seconds until you feel a release.  Repeating the stretch 2 to 3 times is optimal.

2.  Add in a training session with a personal trainer to your exercise routine.  A trained professional will not only work on your flexibility during the session but teach you how to do it on your own at home.

Stretching should never be painful, if you feel any pain STOP.

3.  Add a yoga or Pilates session to your weekly exercise plan.

Did you know that stretching is a form of active relaxation that can improve both mental and physical recovery?  Exhale as the muscle lengthens to assist in relaxation.

4.  Attend a stretch class or do your own 30 minute workout solely focused on mobility and stretching.