The primary benefit of flexibility training (stretching) is an increased range of motion which significantly reduces the risk of injury and leads to greater athletic performance. In addition, there are also a number of very handy secondary advantages such as improved circulation, improved balance and coordination, higher energy levels and even better heart health. Regular flexibly training is therefore an important part of any healthy fitness environment.
Similarly to the anaerobic exercise discussed in the previous post, the primary problem with stretching is that it is simply not much fun. For this reason, it can be very helpful to not only stretch for the sake of stretching, but rather engage in some broader activity that simply has stretching as a by-product – an activity such as Yoga. To be honest, I only began doing Yoga very recently when I learned about the importance of flexibility and became very concerned about my own current lack of flexibility. Even though I’ve always been fit and strong, my flexibility really is quite terrible. The first time I took the quick health profile test linked on the top right of this blog, I received a flexibility score of 30% which was enough to shock me into buying a Yoga DVD.
Initially I found the Yoga routines to be very challenging (simply because I was so inflexible), but as my flexibility improved the routines became gradually more enjoyable and I’m now at the stage where I actually look forward to them. The result has been that my flexibility score has improved from 30% to 80% (which is still below average, but at least not much of a health risk anymore). I still cannot touch my toes, but hopefully that wonderful day will arrive soon 😉
Some other ways in which you can make stretching an automatic part of your healthy fitness environment is to make a habit of always warming down properly after exercise and to consciously stretch your muscles every time you have to bend down to pick something up during daily life. These are two very handy habits which I have found to become automatic quite quickly.
So, take some concrete steps towards improving your flexibility. Before I decided to educate myself on this matter, I also saw stretching just as a simple warmup activity that had to be done just because the coach said so, but now it has become an essential and enjoyable part of my automatic healthy fitness environment. It is definitely highly recommended.