When developing an exercise plan, improving flexibility is an important factor to consider. Stretching our muscles is often thought of as an add-on to exercise, something we do during warm-up and cool-down periods. What many don’t realize is that flexibility workouts should receive just as must attention and be a regular part of your physical activity routine.
Why Flexibility is So Important
As we age, our flexibility naturally declines. Muscles lose their strength and tone, and ligaments and tendons become more rigid. As the joints become more stiff, healthy mobility is harder to achieve. In fact, according to Harvard Health, research has shown that men’s flexibility often drops sharply around the age of 70.
Most of our flexibility is lost in the shoulders, hips, spine and knees as we get older. This not only makes exercise harder, but also general daily tasks like bending over or reaching for something on a shelf. You may also notice the onset of chronic pain in your back, shoulders and neck, and your risks for accident and injury increase greatly.
Tips to Become More Nimble
Health experts recommend you should focus on stretching major muscle groups at least two or more times a week. This includes muscles in your back, shoulders, legs and arms.
Here are some ways to work on your flexibility:
- Make stretching a consistent part of your fitness routine, adding about 10 minutes of stretches before and after regular workouts.
- Experiment with yoga, Tai Chi, Pilates, ballet and other activities if you do better with more structured exercise.
- When stretching, always stretch until you feel some resistance. Then hold that position without stretching too far or making any sharp, sudden movements.
- Try adding resistance bands to your stretches and regular workouts.
- Download a stretching app or follow guided flexibility workouts to hold yourself accountable and be consistent.
- Stay hydrated!