Today I want to talk about the 3rd type of fitness which is Flexibility. Elastigirl's Super Power is the Ultimate flexibility.
My first two blogs, about the two fitness types – endurance and strength – focus mostly on the capabilities of your major muscle groups. Flexibility, however, is in large part about your joints.
The definition of flexibility is simple: It’s the range of motion your body can go through. With age, range of motion naturally decreases. The goal of stretching and other flexibility exercises is to keep your range of motion as wide as possible. If you don’t maintain a certain range of motion, then you start to restrict your activities and this can become a vicious cycle in which you engage in less activity, further reducing not only your flexibility and mobility but also your strength and endurance. Before you know it, you’re grunting just trying to get out of a chair and saying no to invitations to walk, shop, or visit because it’s just to challenging to bother. And you don’t have to be over 60 for this to happen either. This can happen at any age with a lifestyle of little activity. Sitting at a desk at work all day? Then come home exhausted and sit in front of the TV all night watching Netflix? Those muscles are feeling a little tight when you stand up? Yes, you can suffer from loss of muscles and flexibility at any age with the lifestyles many of us are living.
Flexibility exercises strive to do a few things. They wash the key parts of your joints – the bones, tendons, ligaments, and cushion-like substances between – with nutrients and blood. They also keep tendons and ligaments strong and stretchable. And, just as important, they keep the muscles attached to your joints loose and flexible. After all, that’s the key function of a muscle: To move your body through constant stretching and compressing.
Stretching, in other words, does a lot of important things. However, it’s also one of the easiest and most pleasurable types of exercise there is. And it requires no gear at all.
To properly stretch a muscle and its related tendons and ligaments, you want to slowly get into the extended position, then hold it for 20 to 30 seconds. This is much different than from what many people do, however. Too often, people jerk and pull muscles, holding the stretch for just a few seconds, if at all. You need to be patient and slowly stretch the muscle and then hold the stretch the suggested amount of time and by doing so you are maximizing the benefits and minimizing the changes of injury.
Aim to do flexibility exercises at least twice a week. These include basic stretching, reaching, and bending. Activities like yoga, tai chi, and pilates provide excellent opportunities for improving your flexibility. The beauty of these is that you can do them anywhere – even sitting on a plane. But many of your daily activities also provide good opportunities for stretching.
Are you interested in exercising in the comfort of your home using Yoga to improve your flexibility and maybe even lose a little weight? Check out this Yoga program here called the Yoga Burn.
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