4 Tips to Increase Flexibility
My dance teacher used to joke I should dance to Mr. Roboto because I was so stiff. As I’ve aged, it’s only gotten worse, which is pretty common. Most of us rearrange our world to avoid stretching. Think about it – aren’t most of your dishes and glasses only one or two shelves above eye level? The cliché ‘use it or lose it’ applies here, that’s why it’s so important to include stretching as part of our exercise routines.
Why do we lose flexibility?
As we age, the lubricating oil inside our joints gradually decreases and the cartilage thins. If you sit at a desk and work on a computer, you may also notice decreased range of motion and muscle tightness, especially in your shoulders and legs.
Can anything be done?
Yes! You can increase your flexibility at any age and it only takes 2-4 weeks to notice a difference (based on stretching consistently 5 times per week.) Before doing any exercise routine, you should check with your doctor, especially if you are overcoming injuries. Once you’re cleared, start slow. Always warm up your muscles before you stretch. You don’t want to pull anything and injure yourself. Take about five minutes to walk, use an elliptical, or do some jumping jacks before you begin.
4 Tips for improving flexibility
- Try dynamic stretching before a workout. Dynamic stretching uses the muscle’s movement to stretch your ligaments, rather than static stretching, where you hold the muscle in place for 20 seconds. An example would be controlled leg lifts (like ballerinas do before they dance.) Holding on to a chair, try doing ten kicks in front, ten kicks to the side and ten kicks behind you, then repeat on the other side. Never overextend or try to go beyond what feels comfortable, especially when you are starting out.
- Try static stretching after a workout. The goal of static stretching is to move your muscles to their farthest point and then holding it there. Here’s an easy shoulder stretch. Bring your left arm across your chest and hold it there with your right arm above the elbow. Hold for 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side.
- Try foam rolling. It’s a technique called self myofascial release that helps remove knots. You’ll often see athletes and runners use this to great effect. Warning – it can hurt! I’ve found that foam cylinders work best for legs and balls (like a tennis balls) work well when you want to get a knot out in difficult to reach areas like your shoulders. Tennis balls are also good for relaxing your feet.
- Practice yoga. Whether you take a class, follow a video, or use an app there are lots of options to learn stretches that will increase your range of motion. Here is Yoga with Adriene doing a 6 minute hip stretch routine.
Flexibility can be improved if you stick with it consistently. You’ll decrease your risk of injury, improve your performance in daily activities (like reaching on the top shelf) and improves your posture.
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