Easy Ways to Become More Flexible

Being flexible is good for your health.
Being flexible is good for your health. | Source

Why is Flexibility Important?

Quite often, we see people spend an hour on a treadmill or elliptical machine at a gym to burn off some calories, but spare no time for simple stretching to increase their flexibility. If you're one of those who think limberness is necessary for only circus contortionists but not the average person, you are very wrong. Flexibility has a lot to do with our muscle fitness and overall health. Even if you are not planning to become an Olympian gymnast or a yoga guru, being flexible can still benefit you in more ways than you might think.

Muscle Strength - In an article on CNN Health, David Geier, the director of sports medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina, states that flexibility is "the third pillar of fitness" along with cardiovascular exercise and strength training. By stretching regularly, our muscle fibers will gradually lengthen and loosen up instead of remaining tightly attached to the bone. As those fibers become longer and more flexible, your muscle also has more potential to become larger and stronger if met by a proper strength training and cardio routine.

Weight Control - Since lengthened muscle fibers can lead to bigger and stronger muscle mass, a faster metabolism is another plus point you can bet on. Increased flexibility can also make workout routines or daily activities that used to be such a pain become more doable, thus allowing you to adopt a more active lifestyle.

Injury Prevention - Pulled muscles and ankle sprains don't just happen to the aged and the clumsy. These injuries can happen to people of all fitness levels, especially those with inflexible bodies. Tight muscles and tendons restrict your range of motion. When your body is so inflexible, one little awkward movement could stretch certain muscles beyond their limit, causing a strain or a tear.

Disease Prevention - Believe it or not, being flexible may help prevent an array of illnesses. As mentioned earlier, muscle elasticity can increase your level of activity, help you develop stronger muscle and maintain healthy weight. Accordingly, you should be able to ward off certain health problems related to obesity, including heart disease, strokes and diabetes. Furthermore, those with better flexibility usually have better blood circulation. Poor blood circulation is a culprit of many health issues, from chronic fatigue and vertigo to kidney disease and blood clots. With a few minutes of daily stretching, you might be able to keep these problems at bay.

Yoga Dancer Pose
Yoga Dancer Pose | Source

How to Become More Flexible

One word: stretch! The idea that people who aren't naturally limber will always remain that way is a misconception. Flexibility is something that can be developed regardless of how old you are. True, not everyone was born to be a contortionist, but a healthy level of flexibility is achievable for anyone.

Taking yoga classes can be extremely helpful if you try to reach your optimal level of flexibility. If you simply hope to be feel less stiff and get more fit, however, 10 - 15 minutes of daily stretching should be quite enough. For some, it might take only a few weeks to notice a difference. For others, it might take months. Being consistent is key. Make it a routine. Allot a specific time each day to stretch those muscles.

Ideally, you should stretch the muscles and joints in every part of your body from the neck to the feet. However, since we don't all have the same occupations, hobbies and lifestyles, the muscle groups to which we should pay extra attention might be different. High-heel lovers, for example, need to spend more time to stretch their ankles and foot arches than sneaker wearers do. For office workers who hunch over a computer from eight to five, their shoulders, backs and hips would likely need extra stretching; whereas for waiters and supermarket cashiers who are routinely on their feet, their hamstrings and ankles are the areas to focus on.

My Easy Stretching Routines - Overview

Target Body Parts
Foot Stretching
ankle, foot arches, toes
Office Yoga (Chair Yoga)
neck, shoulders, back, hips
Wake Up Yoga (Yoga in Bed)
shoulders, arms, back, legs

Foot Stretching

This stretching routine is beneficial for everyone, but more so for runners, hikers, people who enjoy long walks, diabetics with foot neuropathy, high-heel wearers, and those who have to remain standing at their workplace on a regular basis. These easy exercises not only help stretch and strengthen your foot muscles and ligaments, but also increase blood circulation to the feet and prevent numerous foot problems, such as hammertoe, bunion, arch strain and foot cramps.

Visit Easy Foot Exercises and Foot Care Tips.

Office Yoga (Chair Yoga)

Too busy to attend a yoga class? No problem! Try this office yoga routine right at your desk. Being seated all day long can lower your hip range of motion and shorten your muscle fibers, resulting in muscle stiffness and poor blood circulation. Taking a break from your work for just 10 - 15 minutes a day to complete this routine can help you maintain flexibility in several parts of your body, especially your back and hips. What's more, yoga has proven to calm the mind, reduce anxiety, improve concentration and combat a mental overload.

Visit Office Yoga for Stress and Anxiety Relief.

Wake Up Yoga - Morning Yoga in Bed

Yoga in Bed - Leg Stretch
Yoga in Bed - Leg Stretch | Source

Yes, you can stretch and get some exercise without even leaving your bed! Doesn't that sound fabulous? Most people experience muscle stiffness in the morning. That's why stretching in the wee hours might be an excellent idea. This wake-up yoga routine is designed to stretch your shoulders, arms, back and legs. It gets your blood circulation going as well as invigorates all your limbs and extremities, preparing your entire body for the long day ahead of you.

Visit Wake Up Yoga - Morning Yoga in Bed.

Foods for Flexibility

Drink plenty of water - Our muscles are surrounded by a layer of cobweb-like connected tissues called fascia. Fascia contains collagen, elastin fibers and water. One of its major roles is to facilitate movement of the muscles that it encases. If your body is well hydrated, your fascia will absorb water like a sponge, and act as a lubrication for your joints and muscles. Dehydrated fascia, on the contrary, results in tight muscles, stiff joints, and limited range of motion. So drink up! The recommended daily water intake for the average person is a half ounce per pound of bodyweight. For example, if you weigh 180 lbs., you should drink about 90 ounces of water per day.

Eat anti-inflammatory foods - Certain foods, such as sugar, deep-fried products and alcohol, are highly inflammatory. When you consume a high amount of them on a regular basis, it can cause chronic inflammation in your body, which leads to joint stiffness and muscle pain, as well as a host of other illnesses, such as rheumatoid arthritis, headaches, allergies, eczema, and inflammatory bowel disease. By simply switching to an anti-inflammatory diet, you can improve both your muscle flexibility and overall health. Some of the best inflammation-fighting foods are olive oil, berries, kelp, cruciferous vegetables, wild salmon, turmeric and green tea.

***Keep in mind, though, that hydration and anti-inflammatory foods alone may not suffice. To achieve a healthy level of flexibility, daily stretching is a must!***

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DreamerMeg profile image

DreamerMeg 3 years ago from Northern Ireland

I definitely need this. As I get older, I find that it is harder in the morning to reach down to put my socks on, easier, later in the day. Last week, an exercise class I attended for the first time used foam rollers with studs on them to roll out stiffness and it was amazing.

mbwalz profile image

mbwalz 2 years ago from Maine

This is a great hub. Most people really need to work at and benefit from being flexible. I found out, th0ugh that I have a disease that makes me too flexible - I was surprised that you can be. And so I'm not allowed to do most yoga or stretch.

PWalker281 2 years ago

Thanks so much for sharing these stretching exercises. Boy do I need it. I already do the bed yoga, thanks to your hub about it a while back. Now I can incorporate office yoga to that since I'm in front of the computer most of the day. Voted up and sharing! (If I double posted, delete one. Having a senior moment).

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

Thanks for all the useful information and tips, Om. Flexibility is something I really need to work on!

randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 2 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

I really need to stretch more often and am always looking for tips for this process. Thanks for the detailed overview!

Genna East profile image

Genna East 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

Excellent hub. As we get older, I notice that our bodies do not cooperate as readily as they used to, so we have to work at it a bit more. I was so pleased to see that you included water in your foods list. So important. :-)

Emmanuel Kariuki profile image

Emmanuel Kariuki 2 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

I long for those early days when I was fairly flexible. I have bookmarked this hub so I can reclaim those 'good old days' - This is a well written hub and will be shared!

AvineshP profile image

AvineshP 2 years ago from Chandigarh

This is a great and informative hub in order to stay flexible and fit. It will surely help me and the readers.

Thanks !!

Gypsy48 profile image

Gypsy48 2 years ago

Excellent and informative hub. I like to stretch and so some yoga. I have been doing it for years and find that it is quite beneficial now that I am older.

Om Paramapoonya profile image

Om Paramapoonya 2 years ago Author

Thanks a lot for your feedback, everyone! Really appreciate your lovely comments, votes and shares. :)

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 2 years ago from the short journey

No surprise--excellent information for everyone here. Thanks!

Om Paramapoonya profile image

Om Paramapoonya 2 years ago Author

Thanks for stopping, RTalloni. So glad to hear from you!

anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 2 years ago

Glad anyone can be flexible. I think of the coach potato in me--maybe, there's hope yet. Thanks for the great information.

torrilynn profile image

torrilynn 2 years ago

flexibility is important because it can help support your back and helps to keep you in shape among other things. awesome hub. voted up and pinned.

Tusitala Tom profile image

Tusitala Tom 2 years ago from Sydney, Australia

Excellent article. Om Paramapoonya. I concur with the need to remain both strong and flexible in order to get the best out of life. I turn seventy-eight in April and have been 'pumping iron' since I was twenty. I started in on Hatha Yoga in my early thirties. Although I'm not a 'gym junky' and I don't do the same amount of Yoga stretches I did a few decades back, I always finish my twice or thrice weekly workouts with plenty of 60 second stretches. A chiropractor once told me, and it's stayed with me. We are only as young as our spines are supple.

Om Paramapoonya profile image

Om Paramapoonya 2 years ago Author

@Tusitala Tom - Thanks for stopping by. "We are only as young as our spines are supple." I like that! Really glad to hear you've been stretching and staying healthy. Oh and happy seventy-eighth birthday in advance :)

Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe 19 months ago from Northeast Ohio

Great hub, Om. Yoga helped me become more flexible in five months for home and class practice. Pilates and water aerobics too. I would try to the morning and chair yoga in my spare time. Great ideas!

Alessio Ganci profile image

Alessio Ganci 2 months ago from Italy

Great hub. I would also reccomend functional training workouts. Here you can have also stretching exercise while doing every type of exercise, so that you are completely training your body for strength, equilibrium, coordination and flexibility.

Tusitala Tom profile image

Tusitala Tom 2 months ago from Sydney, Australia

Two years on and I'm still into it. Eighty now. Still pumping iron, riding the bike to nowhere and doing those stretches.

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