If there's one aspect of your physicality you are blatantly aware of as you age it's your decreasing flexibility. I marvel at my 2 years old's ability to bend himself in half with little effort and wonder if I ever enjoyed that level of flexibility. I certainly can't remember being like that, however I have decided to make a concentrated effort to improve my ability to move. It appears conclusive that improved flexibility is within us all, and I intend to be able to tie my own shoelaces for as long as I can.
Here are good reasons (apart from tying your own laces) why investing the energy to stretch regularly, and often will have a positive outcome for you.
1. Improves posture - Stretching will improve your muscular balance and posture. Many people's soft-tissue structures have adapted poorly to either the effects of gravity or poor postural habits. Stretching can help realign soft tissue structures, thus reducing the effort it takes to achieve and maintain good posture in the activities of daily living.
2. Improved circulation and nutrition - A great benefit, and one not normally recognized, is how stretching increases blood supply and nutrients to joint structures. Stretching increases tissue temperature, which in turn increases circulation and nutrient transport. This allows greater elasticity of surrounding tissues and increases performance. Stretching also increases joint synovial fluid, which is a lubricating fluid that promotes the transport of more nutrients to the joints' articular cartilage. This allows a greater range of motion and reduces joint degeneration
3. Increases your coordination– regular stretching of a muscle has been shown to improve a person’s coordination. Studies show that nerve-impulse velocity (the time it takes an impulse to travel to the brain and back) is improved with stretching. This helps opposing muscle groups work in a more synergistic, coordinated fashion.
4. Reduction in back pain– one of the main benefits of stretching is it promotes muscular relaxation. A muscle in constant contraction requires more energy to accomplish activities. Flexibility in the hamstrings, hip flexors, quadriceps, and other muscles attaching to the pelvis reduces stress to the low back. A relaxed muscle has been shown to accumulate fewer toxins, is longer, stronger and less fatigued.
5. Increased physical performance – if you follow a safe and effective flexibility training program you will experience a boost in your physical performance. You will be less prone to injury, you will have more energy, and your ability to move freely will increase. Exercise will become more enjoyable, your productivity at work and home will increase, and your sense of well-being will be measurably improved.
6. Less muscle soreness - countless studies show that slow, static stretching helps reduce muscle soreness after exercise. Static stretching involves a slow, gradual and controlled elongation of the muscle through the full range of motion, held for 15-30 seconds, in the furthest comfortable position (without pain).
If like me you find the best results are achieved by being coached through a program, I recommend the do at home Yoga program produced by Katrina Love Senn.
Whilst it's marketed as a tool for helping with weight loss, which it does as Katrina lost 30 kilograms herself. I use it primarily as a flexibility routine for my whole body. Fluid, easy to follow and energising, I've been using it and enjoying it very much and I hope you do too.