Flexibility is the mobility or range of motion in a joint. The structure of the joint and the soft tissue that surrounds it determine the range of motion you are able to exercise. Flexibility is an important part of any fitness programme yet it is often ignored or forgotten. Many people in a fitness programme work their cardiovascular systems and muscles but forget about flexibility.
What are the benefits and purpose of flexibility?
There are many benefits that a stretching programme provides:
Stretched muscles are more relaxed. Muscles which are full of tension have to work harder. This requires more energy to perform day-to-day tasks. A daily stretching routine can help to relax the muscle tissue which can help them remain healthier.
Increased blood supply and fluids to the joint structure
Stretching can increase the circulation of synovial fluid in the joint. Synovial fluid helps more nutrients to be transported to the joint structure. This helps to increase the range of motion of this part of the body.
Improve balance and posture
Stretching muscle tissue and joint structures can help improve balance and posture. Bad postural habits – such as sitting or standing improperly – can cause problems. A stretching programme can address these.
Studies have shown that the time it takes for nerve impulses to travel from the brain to the body and back again can be reduced with flexibility training. This process can help muscle groups to work together more efficiently which helps to increase overall coordination.
Flexibility training helps to increase the range of motion of a joint structure which can help the muscles to do more with less risk of injury.
5 Guidelines and techniques with flexibility training
- Stretch before and after an exercise activity.
- A pre-exercise stretch is aimed at improving the flexibility of the joints which will be used during the exercise. A runner, for example, would want to perform a static stretch to stretch the calf and hamstring muscles.
- A post-exercise stretch should be used to relax the contracted muscle to help the circulation of fluids to the joint structures and remove waste products from the muscles so helping to restore them to resting length.
- Stretching after exercise, when the body core temperature is the highest, is the best time to stretch for overall flexibility. A person should hold each stretch for longer periods to enhance maximum gains in range of motion.
- Intensity and duration are the most important factors in stretching. A low-intensity, high-duration stretch is the best stretch to increase range of motion.
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