Flexibility exercises are one of the four key types of training that you should be aiming to incorporate regularly in your exercise routine, along with strength, balance and endurance. Just as you wouldn’t dream of eating the same thing every day, and understand the importance of a varied diet, the same applies to your physical activity. This doesn’t mean that each type of exercise needs to be done every single day but variety is key when it comes to keeping our bodies fit and healthy as well keeping our interest.
More often than not, it’s the flexibility exercises that the majority of us overlook. These shouldn’t be underestimated though, research shows they play an important role in improving your range of movement while increasing circulation as well as calming your mind. If this has opened your eyes to the benefits of stretching, here is all you need to know to get you started.
What are flexibility exercises?
Quite simply, flexibility exercises are anything that stretches your muscles and helps your body stay flexible. These exercises alone won’t necessarily improve your personal endurance levels or strength but increased flexibility has a knock on effect, providing you with more freedom of movement which will be hugely beneficial in both day-to-day activities, as well as during other exercises.
These exercises are easy to fit in to everyday life and once you get in to the routine of doing them you’ll soon start to notice a difference in your overall flexibility. If you’re struggling to find time to hit the gym, a few stretches at home or during your lunch-break can work wonders for loosening up your muscles. Whether it’s bending to touch your toes or reaching high and stretching out your sides. Alternatively, look in to attending a yoga or pilates class at your local gym, these will have you limbered up in no time.
When should I do flexibility exercises?
Ideally the best time to do some flexibility exercises is when your muscles are already warmed up, this not only reduces the risk of injury but also means they can be stretched further without experiencing tightness or pain.
If you’re looking to do some flexibility exercises then a quick warm up of a few minutes walking or marching on the spot will be enough to warm your muscles, which will then maximise the benefits of the stretches. Alternatively, if you’ve been doing some strength or endurance exercises, such as jogging or cycling make sure you stretch after and not before. Incorporating stretches at the end of your work out will soon become second nature and part of your regular warm down routine.
How much should I do?
To see the best results it’s recommended that each stretching exercise is repeated 3 to 5 times during each session.
Remember to always stretch slowly and smoothly into the position to avoid injury through over-stretching. You should aim to stretch as far as is comfortable for you, which should always be without pain. Don’t worry if this isn’t very far to start with, over time you will soon start to see a noticeable different in your movement range.
If you’re not used to stretching, start off by holding each stretch for about 10 seconds. The more often you stretch, the easier it will become and then you can work towards building it up and holding each stretch for around 30 seconds.
Here are some top tips to ease you in to flexibility exercises gently to ensure your stretches are beneficial, enjoyable and most importantly, injury free.
- Relax and breathe normally while stretching. Stretch while pushing the breath slowly out through your mouth. Count to 10 slowly or time yourself for 10-30 seconds. Breathe normally during the stretch.
- A stretch should always be smooth and slow, never jerky, bouncy or rushed. This can cause muscles to tighten and may result in injuries.
- Hold the stretch for 10-30 seconds and repeat each stretch 3-5 times. Remember to breathe normally during each stretch.
- As you become more flexible, try reaching farther in each exercise. A mild pulling feeling during a stretch is normal. Sharp or stabbing pain or joint pain means you should stop, you're stretching too far.
- Always keep your joints slightly bent, never “locked” in a straight position, as this can cause injury.
For more information about flexibility workouts, classes and advice call your local 1Life centre today.