Feeling stiffer as we age is normal. Muscles and the supporting muscle fascia (the connective tissue that holds muscle fibers and muscle bulk together) becomes more rigid and less elastic. Regular flexibility exercises help muscles stay in top shape longer so daily actives can be performed with relative ease. Stating limber, pain relief, recovery from an injury or improving sports performance are some of the reasons for stretching, and three methods of flexibility exercises exist. Each person?s flexibility is individual, so be comfortable with your body and avoid comparing yourself to others. Stretching can maintain, restore or improve flexibility and the range of motion of a joint. Muscles move joints and each joint has an ideal movement pattern and range. Full range of motion at a joint requires both a healthy joint and strong, elastic muscles. It?s best to have each of your joints moving to their full potential so that other joints and muscles don?t have to pick up the slack, putting them at increased risk for injury. Flexibility will increase with more blood flow to the muscle. When stretching after a workout when the muscles are warm, ease gently into the stretch until there is a mild tension. (Avoid pain. Muscles will activate their stretch reflex mechanism, and want to contract rather than lengthen in the presence of pain.) Hold for at least 20 seconds. Repeat this as many times as desired, but for general exercise purposes, once for each muscle group in each exercise session is sufficient. Tips for stretching: For dynamic stretching warm up for at least 5 minutes with an active rhythmic, controlled large muscle activity such as walking. For flexibility gains and to avoid injury, do static stretching after you workout. Ease gently into the stretch until you feel mild tensions (no pain!). Hold stretches for 20-30 seconds. Include a stretch for each major muscle group. Stretch on most days of the week (minimum 3days). Be comfortable and focussed ? breathe smoothly using your nose and the lower portion of lungs, this allows the ribs and chest to remain soft and relaxed (breathing exercise) Wear loose clothing. Be persistent over a period of a few months to see results.
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