Fit and Flexible: How (and Why) You Should Improve Your Flexibility

Always be sure to check with your health care provider before beginning any activity plan or increasing your activity.

It always helps to ask:

  • What activities are right for me?
  • How much should I do each day?
  • How many days a week?

It's also important to ask your health care provider what your target heart rate is to help determine what exercise intensity is appropriate for you.

Flexibility may not generate as many headlines as aerobic activities or strength training. But if your goal is to improve your quality of life, you should consider adding flexibility exercises to your routine.

Why? Being able to move your limbs through their full range of motion can make it easier to go about your daily activities. But that's not all: Incorporating simple stretches into your day may also help prevent injury. More flexible muscles are better able to adapt to physical stressors. And research shows that stretching increases blood flow to your muscles and may improve your circulation.

Here's what you need to know to increase your flexibility.

What it is: It's stretching.

What it does: Lengthens muscles, tendons, and ligaments. May also decrease your risk of injury and help you recover faster from injuries.

How and when: Gradually work up to 10 minutes of stretching at least 2 days a week. Involve the major muscles of the arms, legs, and torso. Hold stretches for 10 to 30 seconds, and aim for 2 to 4 repetitions of each stretch (with a slight pause between reps).

Sample stretch: upper-body twist. You can do this standing or sitting. If sitting, sit tall, with your feet flat on the floor; your feet should be shoulder-width apart whether you're standing or sitting. Place your hands behind your head with elbows pointing out to the sides. Twist your body to one side so your shoulders are parallel to the side wall, or as far as you can turn. Your head should follow your trunk. Slowly switch to the other side. Repeat 6 to 8 times on each side.

Click on the following links for information on aerobic, strength training, and balance activities.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest