When you think of the importance of movement, does ‘doing exercise’ often trigger intimidating thoughts of sweaty people, in a cramped gym environment, complete with mirrors on all four walls? Would you like the good news? It doesn’t need to be this way!
Flexibility is one of the primary fitness components however, it is so often belittled by its ‘heavy lifting’ counterparts, such as muscular strength and aerobic fitness developments.
Being flexible means our joints can safely and smoothly move through their entire range of motion (ROM). Activities such as yoga, Tai Chi and Pilates focus heavily on gently moving through these ranges. This means our joints become more stable and facilitate better performances, albeit sporting abilities or improved posture.
However, the benefits of flexibility are not limited to increasing ROM. Studies have shown that the inclusion of low intensity Tai-Yoga can improve the quality of life and functional assessments over a twelve-week period (Noradechanunt, Worsley, & Groeller, 2017). Improvements in quality of life, are often linked to a more positive self-esteem and therefore generate improvements in mental health. Fantastic outcome not just for you, but also those around you!
Additionally, it was shown that when used alone and combined with thermotherapy (heat packs etc) flexibility exercises had a positive impact on chronic low back pain (LBP) (Freiwald, Hoppe, Beermann, Krajewski, & Baumgart, 2018).
Flexibility and stretching need not be limited to those of us suffering with chronic pain. The benefits of improving muscle length are beneficial to those who spend extended periods of time in a rigid position (i.e.: desk workers, long distance drivers etc).
Often undertaken before and after more intense activities, both static and dynamic stretches can assist in increasing muscle flexibility. To improve muscle length, static stretches can be held at a comfortable tension for up to 60 seconds.
Ideally, we should all incorporate a flexibility or stretching program into our schedule from two to three days each week. Each muscle group in the body would be stretched for 10 to 30 seconds at around 60% of voluntary contraction. The use of aids such as TheraBand’s, or a towel can assist with those of us whose present flexibility is lacking. Alternatively attend a class, where the clinician guides you.
The moral of today, is that there are few things we need to remember when approaching exercise and flexibility…….
1. Flexibility can help manage chronic pain or stiffness.
2. Decreases your risk of injury and helps to improve muscle recovery.
3. Improves posture and sporting ability.
4. Creates greater awareness of body strengths and imbalances (i.e.: R:L).
5. Encourages a more positive state of mind.
If you’re feeling out of your depth, don’t be afraid to ask for help! Contacting an AEP or other allied health professional can be the first step to a more nimble and agile you!!!
Freiwald, J., Hoppe, M. W., Beermann, W., Krajewski, J., & Baumgart, C. (2018). Effects of supplemental heat therapy in multimodal treated chronic low back pain patients on strength and flexibility. Clinical Biomechanics, 57, 107-113. doi:10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2018.06.008
Noradechanunt, C., Worsley, A., & Groeller, H. (2017). Thai Yoga improves physical function and well-being in older adults: A randomised controlled trial. J Sci Med Sport, 20(5), 494-501. doi:10.1016/j.jsams.2016.10.007