For most of my life, I worked out without caring one single bit about my flexibility. I would even skip the 5-minute cool-down and stretches at the end of my workouts. Now, I stretch for at least 30 minutes every single day! What has changed? Why is it important to improve your flexibility? That’s what today’s post is all about.
What Is Flexibility?
What does flexibility mean, anyway? Flexibility is the ability of a joint or a series of joints to move pain-free through an unrestricted range of motion. The lack of practice and stretching contributes to a lack of flexibility as we age. Furthermore, poor strength leads to poor flexibiity since contracting one muscle allows for the opposing muscle to stretch. Lastly, the loss of hydration in muscles, tendons, and ligaments that comes with aging will decrease your flexibility.
Why It is Important to Improve Your Flexibility
Whether it is for yoga, weight lifting, or plain everyday tasks, you will find that you can benefit from improving your flexibility. So let’s look at five reasons why it is important to improve your flexibility.
1. Flexibility Improves Your Range of Motion
Range of motion is the capability of a joint to go through its complete spectrum of movements. It can be passive or active.
If you already enjoy working out, improved range of motion is one of the first flexibility benefits you will notice. You will be able to get deeper into your movements for improved results. Consequently, many exercises will become easier to achieve with proper form.
For example, if you do yoga, hamstring and shoulder flexibility will enable your to achieve the dolphin pose with more ease and efficiency.
If you are a weight lifter, your improved range of motion will mean deeper squats and lunges.
2. Flexibility Improves Your Posture
Flexibilility will improve your posture in a few ways:
- Corrects muscular imbalances
- Opens up your chest and shoulders
- Allows you to sit or stand correctly
As you advance in your flexibility training, you will notice that you naturally improve your posture as your muscles develop the right amount of tension and open up where you need to be open. Read How to Improve Your Posture for more tips on improving your posture.
3. Flexibility Reduces the Risk of Injury
Flexibility maintains appropriate muscle length and reduces the risk of injury. A flexible body can withstand more physical stress. Moreover, improving your range of motion as well as your posture will help ensure that you perform your workouts and daily activity with proper form, which helps reduce your risk of injury.
It is important to improve your flexibility to reduce your risk of injury. That being said, it doesn’t mean that stretching before sports or activities is effective to that end. It depends on the type of sports. Stretching before playing sports involving bouncing and jumping activities with a high intensity of stretch-shortening cycles (SSCs) [e.g. soccer and football] may help reduce the risk of injury.
4. Flexibility Enhances Your Breathing and Mood
Regularly stretching and opening your body will bring feelings of relaxation that will improve your mood and your breathing. That’s is a key benefit that I did not expect. Whenever you think about why it is important to improve your flexibility, it’s natural for your mind to immediately focus on physical benefits. Howver, the benefits extend beyond the physical as you experience a sense of peace and calm over time.
5. Flexibility Improves Your Coordination
As you improve your range of motion, your strength, and posture, you will notice that your coordinationimproves as well. Your body is functioning as one harmonious unit.
How to Improve Your Flexibility
Now that you are convinced that improving your flexibility has a multitude of benefits worth seeking, you may wonder: how should I go about improving my flexibility?
Excercises to Improve Your Flexibility
As I mentioned already, strength and flexibility work hand in hand. All muscle actions require a muscle to contract while another lengthens. For example, when you contract your glutes, your psoas lengthens. When you contract your quads, your hamstrings lengthen. That’s why many stretching routines will take advange active stretches. I personally enjoy more passive stretching routines but I do make sure to include strength exercises in my daily training regiment.
I created a Full-Body Flexibility Program that includes all of the above. It is called Moving With Intention.
I also offer many free flexibility tutorials. For example: 9 Stretches to Increase Your Leg Flexibility, How to Improve Your Flexibility for Beginners, and How to Increase Your Flexibility for the Splits.
How Long Will It Take to Become More Flexible
The time it will take to improve your flexibility will vary greatly depending on the frequency and length of your flexibility training sessions. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), everyone should stretch each muscle group for 30 minutes at least three times a week in order to see the benefits. Then other factors will come into play like the types of stretching exercises you perform and genetics.
As a rule of thumb, you can expect to see a noticeable improvement within a few weeks when stretching for about an hour and a half each week.
Why it is important to improve your flexibility is not just about your body, it’s about your mind. It will enable your to stay younger longer, feel amazing, and comfortable in your body. Sucessfully training to improve your flexibility is a matter of staying consistent with a clear plan of action. You can effectively improve your flexibility no matter your age. Take it from someone who learned the splits after the age of 40! You will find it rewarding and enpowering!