How and Why to get Flexible

How and Why to get Flexible
Flexibility is one of the three categories recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine, in order for healthy adults to have complete overall fitness. The ACSM states we need flexibility as it is crucial to maintaining joint range of motion. We often disregard flexibility as part of our regular workout. We forget that in order to reach, carry, stand up and down, and perform many daily tasks, we need to be flexible.

“Flexibility is a measure of the range of motion around a joint (e.g., knee) or series of joints (e.g. lower back). Flexibility is most limited by the joint’s physical structure, including the bone, connective tissue, and muscle,” from "Foundations of Professional Personal Training”. There are numerous reasons why we need flexibility, for example:

•Improves posture
•Improves coordination and balance – especially important as we age and can help prevent falls
•Improves energy
•Increases core strength
•Decreases stress
•Decreases some chronic pain

Try these stretches to improve your flexibility. If any of the positions are too difficult or uncomfortable modify the stretch to suit you.

Full Body Stretch (spine, obliques, legs and hips, shoulders)
•Stand with your feet a little more than shoulder width apart.
•Bring your hands together in front and lace your fingers.
•Roll your hands so the palms face away from the body.
•Press your hands forward from the chest, lengthening the arms
•From this position raise your arms up and over your head, pressing through the palms of the hands upward.
•Release your hands and bring your arms down and into a T.
•Stretch your left hand over your head as you bend to the right.
•Let the right arm reach down the right leg.
•Return to center and reverse the position stretching your right arm over your head and bend to the left.
•Let the left arm reach down the left leg.
•Come back to center and release your arms to your side.
•Go through the entire sequence 3 times.

Standing- Back and Hamstring Stretch (lengthens spine, neck through tailbone; hamstrings)
•Stand 2 to 3 feet away from a chair back.
•Bend forward from your hips and reach your arms forward to rest on the chair back.
•Drop your head between your arms relaxing your neck.
•Check to make sure your feet are lined up directly under your hips.
•Take deep breaths and stretch back through your tailbone.
•Hold for 5 full breaths and come up slowly.

Seated Head to Knee Stretch (hamstrings, thighs, calves, back)
•Sit up tall with your legs stretched straight out in front of you.
•Bend your right knee and place your right foot on the inner thigh of the left leg. (modify as needed)
•Inhale and lift your arms toward the ceiling.
•Exhale and slowly fold forward, extending your arms out over the left leg.
•Reach forward with your arms and rest your hands on your leg or foot.
•Hold for 5 full breaths and repeat with your right leg extended.

Seated Arm and Shoulder Stretches
•Begin in a seated cross-legged position.
•Bring your hands behind your back and lace your fingers.
•Roll your shoulders back, lift your chest, and lift your hands away from your body.
•Hold for 3 full breaths. Release your hands and come back to starting position.

•Begin in a seated cross-legged position.
•Lift your right arm straight up in the air.
•Bend your elbow and bring your right hand behind your left shoulder blade.
•Take your left hand and apply gentle pressure to the right elbow.
•Hold for 3 full breaths. Release and repeat on other side.

Hip Release Stretch (hips, butt, back, legs)
•Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
•Take your right foot and place your ankle on your left knee.
•Lift your left foot off the floor and draw the left knee in towards your body.
•Hold for 5 full breaths and repeat on other side.

Reclining Body Twist (back, hips, chest, shoulders)
•Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
•Place your arms in a T position.
•Cross your right leg over your left knee.
•Scoot your hips a tiny bit to the right.
•Drop both legs left to the floor.
•Keep your right shoulder blade on the ground.
•Hold for 5 full breaths. Release and repeat on other side.

Perform these stretches 3 times a week to keep your joint’s full range of motion, and your body looking long and lean.

Always check with a medical professional before doing these or any exercises. Be healthy, be happy!

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This content was written by Terri Johansen. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Terri Johansen for details.