No matter your age, gender or fitness regime, improving your flexibility should be high on your list of wellness goals. Not only is flexibility important for exercise performance and safety, but it is also key to helping your body function through your daily routine.
Although some people are naturally born with the ability to touch their toes or contort their body and put their feet above their head, we certainly aren’t all capable of this! However, don’t let this discourage you. Everyone is capable of improving their flexibility and reaping the benefits from doing so.
The difference between flexibility and mobility
Although closely related, flexibility and mobility are two different concepts, and understanding the difference may be helpful to isolate areas within your body that you need to work on to free up your movement.
Mobility refers to how well your joints can move actively through a range of motion. On the other hand, flexibility refers to how much your muscles can lengthen passively through a range of movements. You can have good mobility and poor flexibility – and vice versa. Although they are separate concepts, the two are somewhat interdependent. Therefore, improving your flexibility goes hand-in-hand with achieving greater mobility.
Why you should enhance your flexibility
Aside from enhancing your mobility, your flexibility can have a major impact on many facets of your health and wellbeing, such as:
- Enhancing posture
- Improving muscle coordination
- Reducing the risk of injury
- Easing muscle tension
- Improving athletic abilities through increased strength and endurance
From boosting your exercise performance to making mundane tasks such as lugging groceries or hauling laundry easier, flexibility can have a significant effect on your quality of life.
5 ways to improve your flexibility
Below are some of our top recommendations to safely and effectively enhance your flexibility.
Take a few moments to stretch every day
One of the more obvious ways to increase the elasticity of your muscles is through stretching. Performing dynamic and static stretches every day – even for just a short while – can have a significant impact over time. Click here to read about the different types of stretching and how to build these into your daily routine.
Use the power of heat to deepen your stretches
Warming your muscles before stretching will help make them far more responsive. A hot shower or sauna session will do the trick, however, try to do some light movement beforehand to get your blood circulating throughout your muscles to properly loosen them up.
Breathe into each pose or movement
The simple notion of breathing into your stretches can take your progress a long way. Slow, deep and controlled breathing helps to relax the body, as well as honing your focus on your current physical state, allowing outside distractions to fade away. This can help your body melt into each pose or movement rather than forcing it, which can risk injuries due to tearing.
Incorporate movement throughout your day
When you’re planted at your desk and remain stationary all day, your muscles become tense and stiff. This is one of the worst factors for your flexibility! Incorporating some sort of exercise into your day, whether it’s a light walk or a high-intensity workout, warms up your muscles and helps them stay limber, as well as providing a whole host of additional benefits for your mental and physical wellbeing.
If your schedule is fully booked and exercise isn’t a part of your routine, click here to discover how you can add intermittent exercise to your day to reap the same benefits.
Our bodies are made of approximately 60% water, so staying hydrated is essential for keeping your muscles lubricated. When your muscles are thirsty, stiffness occurs and keeps your body from functioning properly. We can often forget the importance of remaining hydrated during the cooler months when we’re not physically sweating out our fluids and reminded to replenish them, and you may find that you’re not as thirsty as you are in summer. This makes it even more important to purposefully hydrate your body throughout the day.
Flexibility is a journey, not a destination. Remain patient with your body and work with it, not against it. There will always be room for improvement, and gradually making these tips an everyday habit will help make a world of difference.