Keep Your Body Flexible

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A flexible body is a happy body. A good stretch keeps your muscles and joints loose and helps you stay pain-free

Forging a strong, healthy body involves more than cardio and strength-training exercises. It’s just as important to work on your flexibility – maintaining the ability of your joints to move easily through a specific range of motion.

The old saying “use it or lose it” speaks volumes when talking about flexibility. Your joints can stiffen up quickly, especially if you live a sedentary lifestyle. Over time, reduced range of motion in the joints can make even normal daily activities more difficult and potentially lead to reduced mobility as you age.

Staying flexible can help reduce the incidence of low-back pain, improve your posture and enhance your co-ordination. Flexible muscles are also much more efficient at absorbing shock and are less likely to cramp, further reducing the chances of injury.

How to Stay Flexible

The best way to achieve or maintain your flexibility is by doing static stretching exercises, which can be done any time and anywhere. Static stretching involves holding a stretch position for 15 to 30 seconds. The ideal time to stretch is after you have finished exercising, as warm muscles are less likely to be injured during stretching. Stretching after a workout is also an opportunity to coax your muscles to relax after the stress of physical activity.

You can also reap the benefits of a good, relaxing stretch during the day, such as when you’re seated at the computer. Remember, you won’t have the same range of motion as after a workout, so take it easy.

When you stretch, breathe comfortably and avoid overstretching – work within your own range-of-motion limits. Avoid stretching to the point of pain; stretches should be gradual and gentle, allowing the muscle to lengthen slowly. Hold each stretch for about 15 to 30 seconds and repeat the stretch at least twice.

Originally published in Wellness Matters, Canada Wide Media’s quarterly newsletter on health and wellness.