Flexibility: Key To Better Health

Ever notice that your body literally takes on the language of stress? We talk about an attitude that is inflexible, rigid or hard. We use terms like we’re hard pressed, she’s straight laced, or he’s not going to bend or move. Add this mental body of thoughts to our day to day living of chronic repetitive over use, unresolved old injury, chronic illness or medication use and you have the making of a physical body that is stiff, sore and tired, and easily injured. Continued stress, mental or physical, positive or negative creates tension in the body. Muscles become tighter and tighter and eventually other things begin to go wrong.

Yogis have known for centuries that the key to good health is flexibility and stretching. The soft flowing exercises known as hatha yoga and tai chi free the mind and body of stress and stiffness.

Massage therapists and Chiropractors as well believe the key to youth and good health is a flexible spine. Besides adjustments the Chiropractor may suggest gentle stretching exercises to improve flexibility. The trained massage therapists will work with the soft tissue, stretching to gain length and flexibility in the muscles, tendons and ligaments.

If you have embarked upon a new exercise program as of late, good for you! But, if you are not using some stretching techniques as a warm up you may be doing more damage than good. Flexibility is the key to all movement; simply defined as mobilization, freedom to move, or technically, the range of motion available in a joint or group of joints. You wouldn’t run a race horse around the track full steam without first walking or allowing his muscles to warm up, so why would you?

Warming up and stretching increases the delivery of nutrients to the muscles creating a more oxygen rich environment. The more oxygen available, the more vital and healthy you become. Exercising without warm up leads to lack of oxygen and increased metabolic waste (lactic acid) causing soreness that may last for days.

While flexibility is the key to all movement, balanced physical fitness requires a blending of three basic components- flexibility, aerobic conditioning and strength training. Equally important is the balance of nutrition, stress management, rest work and play.

Other Benefits of Stretching & Flexibility Include:

1. Increased range of motion for increased ease in daily living

2. Relieves muscle-joint soreness through increased circulation

3. Promotes relaxation and reduces physical/emotional stress

4. Increases muscle/tendon elasticity, which helps prevent injury/re-injury

5. Improves musculotendinous contractility, thus increasing strength potential and endurance.

Your physical therapist, massage therapist, chiropractor, or exercise trainer can help develop a program of stretching for you that will help increase your flexibility. It may take continued persistent stretching to increase your flexibility just stick with it.

Till next time, Rebecca.