It’s tempting to skip stretching and get to the heart of your workout, whether it’s a jaunt on the treadmill or a session with weights. But flexibility training plays an important role in your fitness routine, too. Regular stretching increases your range of motion, which naturally decreases as you age, helping you to perform daily tasks more easily, according to Mass.gov. Increased flexibility also improves your circulation, relieves tension in your muscles and can even improve your posture.
Frequency and Duration
As with everything else in life, increasing flexibility requires time and dedication. Neglecting to stretch regularly means you won’t reap any of the benefits, according to MayoClinic.com. Therefore, engage in flexibility training at least two to three times per week, giving each body part a good stretch during each session. As a beginner, hold each stretch for 10 to 15 seconds. When your flexibility improves, increase that time to 45 to 60 seconds.
Once considered a warmup, stretching should now be part two of your regular workout. Working on your flexibility when your muscles are still cold can lead to injury, according to MayoClinic.com. Warm up for five to 10 minutes with a light jog or biking before moving into your first flexibility exercise. While you might feel slightly discomfort when stretching, never stretch to the point of pain. Hold each stretch rather than jerking or bouncing, which can cause injury.
Prevent a sore neck, tense shoulders and aching arms by regularly stretching your upper body, as well as your core. Try an exercise that stretches your shoulder and chest at the same time – clasp your hands behind your back and push your arms out to straighten them. Raise your hands as high as possible while bending forward at the waist. Stretch your neck by gently bending your head toward your shoulder until you feel a slight pull on the opposite side. Release and repeat on the other side. Incorporate stretches for your arms and back to complete your upper-body flexibility session.
Lower-body flexibility exercises should include stretches for your calves, glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and hips, including your adductors and flexors. Lower-body exercises can be done in a standing or sitting position. Start with a standing calf stretch by placing your left foot about 18 inches in front of your right foot. Place your arms on a wall or railing in front of you. Bend your left leg slightly, keeping your right leg straight and heel firmly on the floor. Push against the wall to feel the pull in your left calf. Release and switch legs. To do a hamstring stretch, sit on the floor with your left leg extended in front of you. Bend your right leg and place the sole of your foot on the inside of your left leg. Bend forward from the waist, feeling the stretch in your hamstring. Release and repeat on the other side.
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