Exercise is essential for a healthy body – not to mention a healthy mind. You may have a full-on exercise routine, or you might be one of the people who simply walks every now and then, or takes an occasional ride on a bike. Some people swim for their exercise, while others walk the dog, and there are – of course – plenty who go to the gym.
Burning off fat and building up muscle tone is great, but there’s another area of exercise and training that we’d like to talk to you about, and it’s one you might not have considered We’re hereto tell you more about flexibility training, what it’s all about, and how you can benefit from some simple routines that will enhance your flexibility.
Put simply, flexibility is the ability to move your joints through their intended range, comfortably and easily. You may think that comes naturally and, to a point, it does, but as we grow our joints grow too, and in some cases they can become less agile.
We’re not talking about people of great ages having trouble with their joints; we’re talking about relatively young people who may not be aware that they are not as flexible as they might believe! Most people have great flexibility in certain areas: you may, for example, be able to bend down and touch your toes, which represents excellent flexibility in the hamstring area. However, you may find it uncomfortable to adopt a vertical standing posture or to bend backwards, which points to a lack of flexibility in the thigh muscles.
There are many more examples, but those should give you an idea of why you think you have adequate flexibility, but in fact things could be a lot better! That’s where flexibility training comes in useful.
Who Benefits from Flexibility Training?
First let us explain something: if you get into flexibility training, you will hear and read a lot about ‘Range of Motion’ – or ROM. This is the official definition of the flexibility in each set of joints and muscles in the body, so you will soon get used to it.
The simple fact is that everyone can benefit from flexibility training. Consider your job: do you sit at a desk every day for most of the day? Millions of us do, and spending long periods of time sitting in the same position is among the commonest reason for one of most frequently seen areas of lack of flexibility – the hips.
Our joints are designed for movement, not sitting, lying or standing still for lengthy periods, so before we go into the more detailed descriptions of flexibility training routines, here’s a tip: if you spend hours a day seated at a desk, get up and walk about for a few minutes at least every hour. Go to the coffee machine, or simply take a walk for a couple of minutes, and it will help keep your joints in order.
What Can Flexibility Training Do for Me?
As we said at the beginning of the article, both physical and mental health are important and are enhanced by regular exercise. Improved movement and more comfort in the joints means less stress in moving around. It also enhances your feeling of well-being, so you will begin to feel better in yourself.
It also means you will have greater stamina, be able to walk further, and if you are a runner, will benefit from the greater ROM in the relevant joints. Make no mistake that flexibility training is important, yet it is not always the primary thought when embarking on an exercise routine.
One of the things about flexibility training is that it is not difficult. In fact, it is highly recommended that you practise at least a couple for a mere few minutes every day if you are to feel at your best and keep your joints in good trim.
It is recommended that you either seek the advice and coaching of a professional, or study one of the many online videos that deal with flexibility training, as it is largely about stretching the joints and therefore needs careful consideration. As with all exercising, doing it wrong can cause damage, but rest assured that flexibility training is lightweight work and inherently safe. Indeed, if you already attend a supervised class, you might ask your trainer to include a few stretching exercises at the end of the session.
Here are a few of the stretching routines that are involved in the process:
- Static stretch – move into a set position to target a specific muscle; hold the position for up to a minute. Your trainer will be able to help you with the details here.
- Ballistic or Dynamic stretches – again, it’s worth asking a trainer for help with the specifics, but basically this involves a bouncing exercise designed to stretch certain muscles.
- Active stretching – we’re getting into more advanced territory here, but this involves moving the joint through its full ROM in a set and prescribed practice.
Those are just a few of the basic stretching models that are used in flexibility training, and there are plenty more to look for and consider. The great thing is this is a form of exercise that you can perform at home, once you have the routine in your mind, and it may be that just a few minutes in the morning when you get up – when your joints are at their least flexible after a long night asleep – will be a great foundation for your ongoing flexibility training regime.
It really is a great way of making sure your joints keep working as best they can as you tackle the ageing process – which, remember, doesn’t begin in old-age – and a fun, simple and inexpensive way of adding a great routine to your exercises.
If you want to know more, why not talk to a trainer about flexibility training now, and see how this simple set of exercises really can change your life.