By: Janet Hunt
Flexibility exercises are stretching exercises for the purpose of increasing your range of motion around a joint.

Before stretching, a warm-up should be performed at a low intensity for 5-10 minutes. This increases the temperature of the muscles and decreases the risk of injury. Flexibility training is best performed when the body is very warm. Many people will do stretching exercises following cardiovascular endurance training; and most fitness classes finish with a short stretching session. Classes focused on flexibility only, may be held in a warmer environment.

Flexibility exercises can increase the range of motion throughout a joint. Increased range of motion can improve mobility in sporting events, balance, and everyday activities. Proper range of motion assists in correct posture by lengthening tight muscles that pull areas of the body away from correct positions. For example, we spend so much time at our computers, reading, driving, etc. that many of us have tight chest muscles which pull our shoulders and head forward leaving us with a hunched shoulder look which affects our breathing, as well as causes pain in our upper back, arms, and to our fingers. Stretching can also calm our mind, provide a mental break, and give our bodies a chance to recharge.

When stretching or performing flexibility exercises, strive for symmetry. Focus on having equal flexibility side to side. Flexibility that is not equal on both sides may be a risk factor for injury. When stretching, focus on major muscle groups such as calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck and shoulders, and any other muscles you routinely use. Never bounce. Stretch in a smooth movement; and hold your stretch for about 30 seconds while breathing normally. While stretching, you may feel tension, but not pain.

Stretch regularly at least 2 or 3 times a week on a regular basis. If you want more, bring movement into stretching with tai chi or yoga.
For more information on stretching or flexibility classes, talk to a personal trainer or check the schedule at your local gym. If you choose to take flexibility classes or yoga, remember to work at your own pace, and do only what is comfortable for you. Flexibility classes and yoga are like other fitness classes, they have different levels so you may need to try a couple of classes to find the best fit for you.
By: Janet Hunt
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment.

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