If you think that flexibility
is just for gymnasts and circus performers, it's time to stretch your mind along with your body. Flexibility is a big part of the formula for fitness
Sure, some people are born more flexible than others, but that doesn't mean you can't improve your flexibility. Stretching
warmed-up muscles makes you more flexible, just like lifting weights or doing push-ups and squats
makes you stronger. Being flexible doesn't mean you have to be able to put your feet behind your head, unless your goal is to be a contortionist
in that circus. back to top
What good is flexibility?
Being flexible is more than being able to do cool tricks like twisting yourself into a pretzel or touching your toes with your nose. Flexibility gives you mobility
, which means your arms and legs are able to move freely in their sockets, that is they have their full range of motion
. It also helps keep you stable (that's your ability to keep yourself from tipping over, whether you're in-line skating or walking the balance beam). In other words, being flexible means your body has freedom and control! Now, that's cool.
When you're flexible, your body performs everyday tasks better too. You can move faster, throw a ball farther, and jump higher. Stretching
is also a great way to prevent injuries
. If you want to be fit
, you've got to be flexible. back to top
How do I get more flexible?
Lengthening your muscles by stretching on a regular basis is the key to improving your flexibility. Try to get into the habit of stretching
after you work out or for a few minutes before you go to bed at night. You might find that it feels good to stretch
after sitting at your desk doing homework or after a long drive in the car. Flexibility isn't forever, though. Like strength training
, if you don't use it, you lose it. back to top
How can I tell how flexible I am?
Just as you might set goals for running faster or losing weight or getting better grades, you can also set goals for becoming more flexible. Maybe your goal is to touch your toes when you sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you. To accomplish this, you would stretch the muscles of your lower back and your hamstring
and calf muscle
s, on the backs of your legs. The great thing about flexibility exercises is that you can see the results. If you keep stretching, you'll be touching your toes before you know it! back to top
Tips for improving your flexibility
- Mix it up. Try different stretches to cover all your muscle groups. Add some variety by using towels, resistance balls, Dyna-Bands, and other stretching tools.
- Always warm up before you stretch to prevent injuries. Yes, you can stretch too hard! So run in place or do some jumping jacks or just dance around to your favorite music to get your body ready for stretching. Your body should feel warm before you stretch.
- Be gentle. Rushing through stretches, bouncing, and stretching to the point of pain can lead to injury, not flexibility.
- When you stretch, try to focus your thoughts on the muscles you're using. Can you feel the muscle getting longer and looser? back to top