Sitting on a dusty gym floor with my feet pressed against a wooden box, I desperately tried to inch my fingers just a little bit further down the board on top so I could get a “better score.” I was 7, it was the 90s and I had no idea what we were doing: I just liked getting good scores. Unfortunately for me, that good score was literally just out of reach as I wasn’t very flexible.
Flexibility is important for more than your 90s gym class grade. It is your ability to move your body through a normal range of motion at each of your joints and is essential for your health and well-being. Read on to discover how flexibility fits into an active lifestyle.
Increased athletic performance
It’s easy to assume how athletes need to train if they want to perform better. Lift heavier! Run longer! Then run some more! Insert emotionally charged music with video sequence of sweat drenched individuals pushing themselves as hard as they can. What’s not often pictured are these same athletes gently working their bodies through flexibility exercises. And yet, this is an integral part of any exercise regime, especially for athletes.
Imagine the following scenarios:
- Trying to shoot a 3-pointer in basketball when you can’t raise your arms above your head.
- Running a marathon with tight hips or ankles.
- Performing a flawless dive with a back that can’t bend and twist as it should.
- Wrestling with a knee unable to fully bend or extend.
- Doing the butterfly stroke, ever – seriously, who can move like that?
Additionally, maintaining and/or improving your flexibility can increase the power you exert while jumping and running. This increase in power can enhance an individual’s athletic performance in their chosen sport.
Decreased risk of injury
Flexibility can also help prevent injury in active individuals as the more you move your joints, the more your body responds to keep those joints healthy by:
- Increasing blood flow and nutrients to joints
- Creating more synovial joint fluid so joints move smoothly
- Strengthening muscle endurance which in turn protects joints
There are also several soft tissues involved in how our joints move. Loss of mobility and flexibility in these tissues restricts our joint movement, increasing our risk for injury. These tissues include:
- joint capsules
When it comes to flexibility a “use it or lose it” mentality is appropriate. The more we move and incorporate flexibility training into our schedule the better chance we have of preventing injuries from athletics, recreation and even daily life.
Pain can get in the way of being active and enjoying some of our favorite pastimes. Often, medication alone is not enough to manage symptoms or address what is causing the pain. It is well documented that increased flexibility can help alleviate pain and a multi-disciplinary approach is more effective for pain management. An exercise and stretching routine prescribed by a chiropractor (or other qualified health care professional) can reduce symptoms and give much-needed relief to individuals suffering from back, neck, extremity and/or joint pain.
Balance is essential, especially if you lead an active life! Having a good sense of balance helps not only with great adventures like hiking through mountains and cycling through the countryside, but also with little daily activities like carrying in the groceries and playing with your dog. Specifically, flexibility (or range of motion) in the ankle contributes to your balance while moving and standing still. Take a moment to stand on one foot (hold on to a wall for support if you need to!) and focus on how the ankle of the foot on the floor constantly makes little corrections to keep you upright. It will bend a little forward, then to one side and the other and even slightly bend back. Even though these movements seem small, a stiff or immobile ankle lacks the flexibility to make these very needed adjustments, causing you to lose your balance and possibly fall.
Ways to improve flexibility
Both Pilates and chiropractic care are great tools to help you improve your flexibility and help you maintain a healthy and active life! Here at Atomic Pilates and Chiropractic we are dedicated to helping you achieve your fitness and health goals.
Contact us today to see how we can help you! We look forward to hearing from you.
Author: Tammy Rampton, RN, BSN
Rampton Medical Writing