We are all guilty of it; we go to the gym, work on our strength and aerobic fitness, hit the shower, and head home. But the one element of our fitness that we constantly overlook is our flexibility and mobility.
Why? Because for most fitness buffs, the idea of sitting down on a yoga mat and stretching for 15 minutes is far from appealing. However, skipping your stretching can harm your physical health and lead to serious long-term injury. The last thing anyone wants.
But aren’t flexibility and mobility the same? No. Let’s look at the differences between the two and why both are critical to your health and well-being.
What is flexibility?
Flexibility refers to your muscle’s ability to stretch through the full range of motion without feeling pain or discomfort. Like an elastic band, the more flexible your muscles are, the easier they stretch.
While most gym goers think about being flexible as something that’s only important for yoga, it actually plays a vital role in our day-to-day functioning, including performing basic tasks like lifting, pulling, and walking.
What is mobility?
Mobility, on the other hand, is the ability of your body’s joints to move through a full range of motion. Depending on the joint, the range of motion or ROM varies significantly.
For instance, your knee joint only allows you to move your knee forwards and backward. Alternatively, your shoulder socket will enable you to move your shoulder up and down in a circular motion.
Why is it important to keep your mobility and flexibility on a good level
Flexibility and mobility are essential in many aspects of daily life, including improving our functional movement and balance and increasing our athletic performance and physical well-being.
Below are 5 reasons why you should prioritise your flexibility and mobility starting today. While they are important to everyone, they are essential to the elderly because they can reduce the chance of falling.
1Improves posture and muscle imbalance
Numerous studies have shown that improving your flexibility and mobility can positively affect your posture, particularly as you age. Many people suffer from muscular imbalances, which means that one side of your body is more dominant.
Muscular imbalances can cause long-term severe injury if not corrected. Fortunately, regular stretching is one of the easiest ways to improve your posture and fix your body’s imbalances.
Paying attention to which parts of your body are tighter than others is an excellent way to improve your body balance. For instance, if your left hip is tight, focus on holding the stretch longer and more often.
2Improve your functional movement and range of motion
One of the most significant benefits of being more flexible and mobile is that it improves your functional movement and range of motion. When you’re flexible, it makes it much easier to perform daily tasks like packing away the groceries or putting your socks on.
Because stretching helps to improve your posture and muscular imbalance, your ability to walk and perform tasks pain-free is greatly increased. Functional movement is vital to people of any age, particularly the elderly, who are at significant risk of losing balance.
The great thing about becoming flexible is that anyone can do it regardless of age or fitness level. Get started today.
3Alleviate chronic pain
In this day and age, most people spend hours and hours a day stuck behind a desk. Sitting for long periods without moving can cause muscle imbalances and tightness resulting in pain and discomfort.
Regular stretching has been shown to significantly reduce muscle soreness, whether performed before or after a workout. For instance, standing and performing ‘shoulder circles’ can dramatically reduce pain in your joints as they move through the entire range of motion.
Additionally, being not flexible enough in one area of the body can lead to pain in another. For example, people with stiff ankles typically feel pain in their hips and knees. Alternatively, tightness in the chest can present as pain in the shoulders.
Taking 15 minutes out of your day to stretch will improve your health and your movement.
4Boost your athletic performance
Are you a gym buff? Do you play sports? Well, studies show that becoming more flexible is one of the most effective ways to improve your athletic performance.
When you increase your mobility, your muscles are subjected to a wider range of motion resulting in bigger and more powerful muscular performance.
Putting your muscular system through the full range of motion recruits more fibres, and as such, you can break down more muscle tissue enabling your body to build more muscle. Now, that’s what we call a positive feedback loop.
5Enhance your joint health
It’s important to remember that your joints are comprised of cartilage, which typically gets less blood flow than muscles.
When you move your joints and improve their range of motion, the amount of oxygen and blood that flows to the areas is significantly increased. This increase in blood flow and oxygen nourishes the joints and helps clear out the old fluid.
Alternatively, those with limited mobility and flexibility typically display poor technique when performing physical activities, such as a junior pitching a baseball, which can lead to shoulder and elbow injury.
Healthhack from Healthypedia
One of the best tips is not to expect miracles overnight. The first thing to do is create a stretching time window that you can fit into your daily schedule. This way, you can improve your flexibility and create healthy habits that positively affect other areas of your life.
Dynamic stretching is best-performed pre-workout.
Static stretching is recommended for post-workout.
Stretching alone will not reduce your waistline. Only proper nutrition and regular exercise can do that.
Let’s sum up
In short, taking the time to prioritise your flexibility and mobility can do wonders for your short and long-term health. They play a critical role in maintaining joint health, improving athletic performance and posture, and helping to correct muscular imbalances.
Don’t wait any longer; start now and dedicate 10 minutes a day to stretching; trust me, your body will thank you for it.
Hungry for knowledge? Here is more
Explore the scientific side of flexibility and mobility by watching this video from Shapeshift Wellness YouTube Channel. Turns out, your muscles are not actually tight – your nervous system is just trying to safeguard your movement by not allowing you to stretch them ‘too far’.
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