Having adequate flexibility in one’s body is of utmost importance and should be one of the self-professed goals of anyone who is serious about his / her long term fitness. Flexibility can be defined as the range of movement in a joint or in several joints and is developed by stretching the soft tissues primarily around the joints. This means that your joints would have the ability to move freely through it’s full normal range of motion. In sports there is an increasing awareness of the value of flexibility training and the importance of stretching as it can improve the overall sports performance of an athlete. But the importance of flexibility in our daily lives and the value of flexibility training to fitness, health and overall wellness tends to be neglected or poorly understood by the general populace.
Health Benefits of Improved Flexibility
If stretching is done only rarely and only on a few body parts, then flexibility gains will not be apparent. Everyone should adopt a regular stretching routine in order to derive maximum health benefits. Here is a list of the physiological and mental health benefits that can be gained by stretching:
1. Better Posture
A body could have adapted to habits of poor or incorrect postures over the years. Poor exercise technique can also lead to muscle imbalance and incorrect postural alignment. While flexibility training indeed leads to greater flexibility in one’s body, stretching exercises conducted regularly also has the bonus side effect of increasing muscular endurance and strength. With regular stretching, you will eventually experience improved muscular balance and find it easier to maintain correct posture and control your movements in sporting activities and avoid injuries in your daily life.
2. Better Range of Motion
With flexibility training, you will develop the ability to exert greater force through a wider range of motion. A joint that is more mobile moves easily and effortlessly through a range of motions safely and easily, whether in sporting activities or daily chores.
3. Injury Prevention
Flexibility is often perceived as one of the best ways to prevent or avoid musculotendinous injuries. If your muscles or tendons are stiff and jammed, they are more prone to strain and injury to that part of the body will happen if movements are performed through a range of motions beyond which the stiff muscles can currently allow. Research has proved that improved flexibility and strength in the gluteus muscles, hamstrings, hip flexors and low back musculature reduces risk of lower back problems and prevents or relieves age-related pain.
4. Better Circulation & Relief of Muscle Stiffness
Adequate warm-up and stretching exercises will bring about increased tissue temperature and enhanced blood circulation and nutrient delivery through the blood. For athletes, immediately or after strenuous exercise or training, DOMS (Delayed onset of muscle soreness) may be likely to occur and may be felt upto 48 hours after training. Slow static stretching performed after exercise, and repeated stretching two or three times a day can reduce or prevent muscle soreness, reduce the severity and duration of DOMS and enhance recovery from bouts of heavy exercise.
5. Superior Relaxation
Prolonged muscular tension in your body tends to tighten and shorten afflicted muscles thereby reducing their suppleness over a period of time. Flexibility training or stretching exercises that form a part of the cooling-down routine will help prevent your muscles from tightening up and enhance muscular relaxation. Stretching when done in a cool and calm environment is also highly enjoyable and leads to reduction of stress and mental peace. You can take your minds off work or other niggling worries and spend time stretching your body either by yourself or with others. Stretching together in a group can create opportunities for friendship and bonding in a relaxed and convivial atmosphere.