While we are often reminded of the benefits of daily exercise, the importance of regular stretching can go unnoticed. Flexibility training can be key to maintaining an active and injury-free life style.
“Flexibility is basically a measurement of the ability of a joint to move,” says Amy Ory, personal trainer at Fitso Gym located along Tulsa’s Brookside.
“Muscles, ligaments and tendons are stretched across various locations of joints and can impede or encourage a healthy range of motion.”
Working toward a healthy range of motion is valuable as you go about your daily activities as well as when you’re working out. Increased flexibility can lead to improved posture, physical and mental relaxation, less muscle tension and soreness as well as a reduced risk of injury.
“It’s true that the more flexible you are, the less likely you are to be injured,” says Ory. “For example, tight hip flexor and hamstrings pull the pelvis downward, causing lower back strain and tension. Just picking up a bag of groceries could result in a very painful back injury. If those muscles, ligaments and tendons were loose as a result of practiced flexibility, the lower back would have a wider range of motion and at less risk for injury.”
Everyone’s level of flexibility will vary, and with practice, anyone will see improvement.
“Flexibility and range of motion are two of several important factors in a person being able to function to the best of his ability,” says Linda Wilborn, clinical manager at Saint Francis Health Zone.
“Some people will be more flexible than others, but the more you work on it the more you will improve.”
Most health and fitness facilities can provide a flexibility test to gauge range of motion.
“Flexibility tests are useful for measuring individual progress, but try not to get hung up on comparing yourself to others,” says Ory.
If you’re unable to freely move and flow through life the way you want to, then you’re missing out on your personal best.
“If you protect or guard against a particular action or muscle movement and your range of motion is restricted, then it’s something to work on,” says Ory. “Work on flexibility slowly. Flexibility is a crucial component of overall fitness progress. It’s important to develop a regular routine and record your progress so your range of motion is permanently adjusted.”