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Flexibility For Good Health

Flexibility is a cornerstone of fitness that is often overlooked, despite the many wonderful advantages of smooth, flexible joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons. Fitness participants are most likely to focus on cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength and endurance and body composition, rather than flexibility, because of the immediate physical feedback of endurance and strength training and the visually positive effects of exercise combined with good nutrition. And yet, without proper flexibility training, we are not truly fit, healthy or well balanced. As fitness professionals, we need to encourage our participants to incorporate flexibility work into their fitness regimens. The best way to convince our fitness participants of the importance of good flexibility is to educate them on the many benefits, both physical and mental, of a conscious stretching program to promote flexibility.


Posture

Firstly, good flexibility is essential for healthy posture. Our muscles and their attachments are elastic in nature, and can permanently shorten over time with repeated exercise,work, stress and trauma. Eventually, the natural resting length of the muscles can decrease. Since muscles and their attachments move our bones, or levers, if the muscles become unnaturally shortened, they will pull the bones out of alignment. Postural imbalances can occur, such as Lordosis, Kyphosis and Scoliosis, causing pain and deformity.


Injury Prevention

Muscles, ligaments and tendons which are chronically shortened due to poor flexibility are prone to injury. Since the Range Of Motion of the joint is compromised by the shortened muscles, or pulleys, the joint will not be able to move through it’s full Range Of Motion smoothly and efficiently.

A big kick, sliding to homeplate, slipping and falling, or merely picking up your child could tear the rigid muscles, tendons or ligaments causing pain and injury.

Physical Performance

Good flexibility improves exercise and sports performance. When joints are able to move easily through their Range Of Motion, running strides become longer, throws become farther and exercise becomes easier. Muscles perform better during exercise and delayed onset muscle soreness diminishes.


Mental Attitude

Finally, a well maintained stretching program is excellent for relaxation and the mind/body connection. Because of the necessary slow pace of stretching, it allows us to take time out from our hurried, stressful lives. Stretching allows us to make a conscious connection between the physical state of muscular relaxation, and the inner peace associated with mental relaxation. Remaining still and silent both mentally and physically while you stretch, can go a long way to improving your overall outlook on life. Once the body and mind are still, thoughts become freer and more clear, the body is allowed to rest, rejuvenate and release energy, and we can realize the contrast between work and relaxation. Once we experience stillness and relaxation, we can learn to appreciate the work we do in our busy lives.


Kathleen Ekdahl is an AFAA and ACE Certified Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer with over 12 years experience in fitness and a background in Clinical Research and Cardiovascular Medicine. Kathy is a consultant and presenter for the fitness industry and fitness professionals. Got a question? Ask Kathy now.

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Last Updated: October 19, 2002