The Importance of Flexibility to Good Health

The Importance of Flexibility to Good Health

This article will help you understand what flexibility is, why it is important and how flexibility contributes to good health.

What is flexibility?  Wikipedia defines flexibility as “the ability to easily bend an object or the ability to adapt to different circumstances”. 

Webster’s defines flexibility as: 

1 : capable of being flexed : PLIANT

2 : yielding to influence : TRACTABLE

3 : characterized by a ready capability to adapt to new, different, or changing requirements 

As you age, your muscles tighten and range of motion in a joint can be minimized. This can put a halt to active lifestyles and even hinder day-to-day, normal activities. 

This is also true of your mind and emotions.  The less pliant one is, the less able you are to adapt to new situations which can increase levels of frustration and stress, which works its way into your fascia, which hardens and contributes to muscle tightening and loss of range of motion.   

Why is flexibility important?  The tendency is for muscles to lose flexibility with age and inactivity.  Is being flexible really that important?  Yes!

  • Flexibility is necessary for normal activities that require bending, twisting, and reaching. Maintaining a "range of motion" allows us to do everyday tasks pain-free.
  • Flexibility is increased through careful stretching of the muscles. In addition to making normal activities possible and pain-free, flexible muscles relieve stress, promote good posture, reduce the risk of pain and injury, and allow ease of movement throughout life.
  • Good flexibility reduces your risk of low back pain. For many people that alone is a major reason to maintain muscle flexibility.

How does flexibility contribution to good health?  If reaching for a book on the top shelf causes muscle pain, if bending to pick up your brief case is getting more difficult, or if you feel muscle pain when you turn your head quickly, you need to increase your muscle use and range of motion.

Do you feel any pain in your lower back or legs when bending over to retrieve an object off the floor? If so, your low back and hips may be tight and lack flexibility. Back pain may not be far down the road. One of the most important areas to have good flexibility is in the spine. Excessive tightness in the spine can impede normal movement. Muscles weaken when movement is limited.

Flexibility allows muscles and joints to move through their full range of motion. It is joint specific. This means that a person may have excellent range of motion in one joint and be limited in another. Poor flexibility leads to stiffness, poor posture, back problems, movement limitations, and a higher risk for injury to muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

With aging and inactivity comes less range of motion. What is unclear is how much of this reduction in joint flexibility is caused by aging or the reduced physical activity related to aging. Anyone, regardless of age, can improve flexibility. Stretching is the best way to maintain good flexibility. It offers relief from muscle tension and stiffness. It allows us to move normally and without effort.  Not only does stretching loosen your muscles and increase your range of motion, it helps with stress relief.  Stretching post-exercise helps your muscles recover more quickly and helps you to build healthier muscles. 

Flexibility allows us to maintain healthy muscle tone, move freely, maintain good posture, and reduces stress in the body, all of which reduce pain and help to fight the aging process. 

Massage and Yoga are both excellent choices for increasing flexibility. 

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