Everyone feels the need to become more flexible as they age. Flexibility, among other things, improves physical performance, allows muscles to work more effectively, and increases blood flow. If reaching your toes while bending over seems impossible, it may be time to consider increasing your flexibility.
A few times per week of concentrated effort, including breath work, stretching, and strengthening, can significantly improve your flexibility.
What is Meant by Being Flexible?
Many people are confused between flexibility and mobility. Flexibility refers to the ability of your muscles and connective tissues to stretch temporarily without pain.
Mobility, however, is the ability of your joints to move freely and painlessly through a range of motion. Being flexible is required for good mobility. Flexibility alone, however, doesn't guarantee mobility, and you will have to have more than that to possess a good range of mobility.
Why is Being Flexible Important?
Flexibility is fundamentally necessary for daily life. Being flexible will make many of the movements you perform in your daily life easier.
Consider reaching for something high on a shelf or stooping to pick up something on the floor. It will be much harder to complete tasks like these if your muscles are not elastic. These simple tasks grow much harder as one grows older since muscles lose their elasticity if not exercised and stretched regularly.
Being flexible will also promote relaxation and relieve muscle tension and soreness. If you don't do some basic stretching from time to time, your muscles remain in a state of tension, increasing the risk of injury.
Additionally, flexibility is very important for sportspeople, athletes, and those who do any kind of physical labor. It helps to increase muscular strength and endurance, and enables muscles to move through their full range of motion (mobility) for the greatest possible benefit.
Different Types of Stretches to Become More Flexible
There are different types of stretches you can do to become more flexible and increase your muscular endurance, strength, and range of motion. You can stretch three to five days a week for five minutes, although even performing some light stretching every day won't hurt you.
Stretching is a great way to relieve muscle tension and stiffness, not to mention the fact that you will feel relaxed and loose after stretching. For inspiration, check out our article on the best stretching exercises for beginners to improve flexibility.
In this type of stretching, you perform a joint's complete range of motion and then hold that for 15, 30, or 60 seconds, even longer, depending on the capacity of your muscle.
Static stretching is not recommended before exercise (before your muscles are warmed up). It is generally advised against doing static stretches prior to working out, especially when they are held for longer than 60 seconds. Static stretches can actually cause the muscles to become too flexible and, hence, incapable of properly stabilizing the joints in your body.
Static stretching is best done after exercise as a way to cool down or throughout the day as a means to loosen up stiff muscles.
Dynamic stretches help the body's muscles and connective tissues receive more blood by gently moving joints through their full range of motion and becoming more flexible. They are therefore ideal to perform before exercising. Some examples of dynamic stretching include hip circles, arm circles, and leg swings.
Applying pressure to the muscles' connective tissues during myofascial release (such as foam rolling or massage) encourages the muscles to relax. In order for your muscles to relax and feel better, the massage therapist may occasionally need to really dig into your knots.
Foam rolling might be most helpful when done just before dynamic stretching to increase flexibility.
Flexibility is very important. It helps your body function to its full potential, keeps your muscles healthy and happy, and can even prevent age-related chronic pain as you grow older. Even just 30 minutes of stretching each week can have a significant impact on your flexibility over time.
The most significant benefit of being flexible is an improvement in quality of life. It's never too late to start; within a week, you will begin to notice the effects of daily stretching.