If you have been inactive for any length of time, chances are you have lost a percentage of the range of motion associated with your joints. This range of motion is commonly referred to as flexibility. Each joint has a natural range of motion specific to the joint and the individual. Many factors can determine the range of motion of a joint such as age, sex, activity level and genetics. Activity level is by far the most influential when it comes to sustaining a healthy range of motion within each joint.
How We Lose Flexibility
As we age, flexibility diminishes within the joints through lack of stretching and physical activity. There are also other physical changes that affect the flexibility of a joint. They are:
- Increased calcium deposits
- Increased dehydration in connective tissue
- Adhesions and cross-links in connective tissue
- Changes in the chemical structure of the tissues
- Fibrosis, whereby fibrous tissues replace degenerating muscle fibers
Stretching is a physical activity that elongates connective tissues, muscles and other tissues. The benefits associated with stretching include:
- Reducing muscle tension and relaxing the body
- Improved coordination and freer movement of body and limbs
- Increased range of motion in the associated joints
- Prepare the body for physical activity
- Preventing injuries from tight muscles during physical activity
- Creating a mind body connection
- Promoting circulation
- Reduce the risk of back problems
- Reduce muscle soreness after exercise
Where To Stretch
It is never too late to begin a stretching routine. Regardless of age or activity level, stretching increases functionability. And stretching can be performed any time you feel the desire to do so. Stretching can be done:
- While you are in your car
- While waiting on a bus
- While walking
- While at work sitting at your desk
- While standing in line
- While watching television
Well you get the idea; any time or any place is a good time to stretch!
When To Stretch
Stretching is the perfect way to revive a dormant fitness routine. If you have not exercised in quit some time stretching is the perfect activity to begin with. Stretching, like walking, does not require any special equipment, just sit on the floor and start stretching!
You can stretch:
- First thing in the morning to start your day
- Anytime you feel nervous or tense
- After sitting or standing too long
- When you feel stiff
- Any time the urge strikes
When implementing any exercise regimen, remember to begin slowly. Don't try to do too much too soon. The key to any successful fitness regimen is consistency!
Always consult with your physician before beginning any exercise regimen.
Nothing diminishes anxiety faster than action. -Walter Anderson
Sources: Stretching by Bob Anderson; Sport Stretch by Michael Alter