Flexibility exercises are an essential part of recovering from aerobic activity and can reduce your risk for injury. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) encourages individuals to incorporate these exercises into their daily workouts.
“Increasing your flexibility improves your ability to move easily,” said orthopaedic surgeon and AAOS spokesperson Raymond Rocco Monto, MD. “Some joints lose up to 50 percent of motion as we age. There are many ways to improve your joint flexibility including controlled stretches held for 10-30 seconds, stretches that rely on reflexes to produce deeper flexibility, as well as yoga and pilates.”
Before skipping flexibility exercises during your next workout, consider these five benefits of adding them to your workout regimen:
- Less back and joint pain: A 2011 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that regular stretching was effective in relieving chronic back pain. Other research has shown quadriceps stretches helped decrease knee pain.
- Better circulation: A 2009 study in the American Journal of Physiology discovered that torso stretches decreased stiffness and improved blood flow. This also may be why regular bedtime hamstring and calf stretches decrease the frequency and intensity of night-time leg cramps.
- Improved joint motion: Flexibility naturally decreases with age. Stretching can help restore lost joint motion and improve function.
- Better athletic performance: Like a good rubber band, muscles and tendons generate more force under tension when they are supple and compliant.
- Improved muscle health: Mobility exercises can increase the amount of stress muscles can handle in high tension activities that involve jumping and cutting movements.
Get the most out of your flexibility training by following these simple guidelines:
- Always warm up before your stretch. Stretching cold muscles can cause injury.
- Stretch slowly and gently. Breathe into your stretch to avoid muscle tension. Relax and hold each stretch 10 to 30 seconds.
- Do not bounce your stretches. Ballistic (bouncy) stretching can cause injury.
- Stretching should not hurt. If you feel pain, take the stretch easier, breathe deeply and relax into it.