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Activities for Improving Flexibility

Instructor: Sarah Friedl

Sarah has two Master's, one in Zoology and one in GIS, a Bachelor's in Biology, and has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

Flexibility is important not just to athletes but to our everyday lives as well. In this lesson, you'll learn what flexibility is, as well as certain things you can do to help improve your flexibility no matter how old you are.

What Is Flexibility?

Have you woken up in the morning feeling 'stiff?' In other words, your body just didn't move right, it felt stuck and rigid. This is because your flexibility was limited, in other words the range of motion of your joints and muscles. You know those people at the circus who can fold themselves in half? They are really flexible! That level of flexibility is pretty uncommon, and it's also not necessary for most of us in our daily lives.

However, improving your flexibility will not only make getting out of bed in the morning easier, it will also make you feel better in other activities as well such as lifting and pulling things, or just walking down the street. And if you're into physical fitness, then flexibility is definitely something that you should be aware of and work to improve. Running, throwing a ball, jumping, twisting, turning, and even stopping quickly all require good flexibility. And the better your flexibility, the less likely you are to get injured.

Improving Flexibility through Stretching

One of the best ways to improve your flexibility is through stretching. Stretching is often seen as a warm-up or cool-down activity, but adding stretching exercises into your daily routine is actually pretty important. Stretching won't lengthen your muscles any more than pulling on your legs will make your bones longer. But it does increase blood flow and train your joints to better run through their full range of motion.

Stretching is a good way to improve flexibility because it increases joint range of motion and blood flow to muscles.
stretching exercises

It's like this: if you take a hinge that is all rusty and try to open it, you'll find that it's difficult to do because it's not able to perform that type of movement. But if you grease up that hinge and get rid of the rust, it moves more freely and can perform that type of movement much better. So, think of stretching as greasing up your muscles and joints!

There are lots of ways to stretch your muscles, but there are some things to keep in mind for effective stretching. First, make sure you stretch both sides evenly. Second, stretch enough that you feel it but not so much that it hurts, and then hold that stretch for about 30 seconds. The stretch should also be a smooth movement, not bouncy. Stretching can also be tailored to your specific activity, such as running, kickboxing, or just everyday life activities.

There are lots of games that are designed to stretch your muscles and improve flexibility as well. Have you done the limbo? While you were having so much fun trying to walk under that stick you were also stretching your back and hips!

Flexibility Exercises

Strengthening exercises are another good way to improve your flexibility. Things like yoga, tai chi, Pilates, and even resistance training, such as lifting weights, are all good ways to increase flexibility while at the same time strengthen your muscles and bones. During these activities you are stretching and strengthening your muscles while greasing up those joints.

Yoga, which is an exercise of both mind and body, is becoming more common in America these days but it actually started a long time ago. Our modern version of yoga focuses on body postures that both stretch and strengthen specific muscle groups.

Yoga involves both strengthening and stretching of the body.
yoga pose

Tai chi comes in many different styles but is focused on slow, steady movements of muscles and joints. It's often seen as being very graceful because the movements are so slow and focused. This type of exercise, like yoga, helps to both strengthen and stretch specific muscle groups at a time.

Pilates, named for its creator Joseph Pilates, may be compared to calisthenics because of its endurance component. Like the other exercises mentioned, Pilates also works to strengthen and stretch the body. But Pilates puts more of an emphasis on the core of your body - that is your abs, back, and hips.

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