We know that improving flexibility and mobility is essential for maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle. So here are some useful tips (or reminders) to help you improve both…
Stretching: The Key to Unlocking Your Body’s Potential?
The quickest way to improve your flexibility and mobility is through regular stretching. Whether using dynamic or static stretches, using them before and after exercise will help to reduce the risk of injury and improve your range of motion.
Stretch smart, not hard! If you’ve been doing the same old stretches that you’ve always done and are not getting the results you want, maybe it’s time to change it up. Whether adding new ones to your old favourites or doing them in a slightly different way (such as in standing, sitting or on the floor), it’s a great idea to change the load on your joints and therefore the muscles surrounding them to keep seeing improvements throughout your body.
Yoga or Pilates?
Honestly? Either can be a great way to improve your flexibility. Try both and find the style that works for you. Going to a class has the added benefit (if the teacher is worth their salt!) of having a professional help you to make adjustments to your position. There are many fantastic instructors out there, so it’s worth taking the time to have a look for the style of class and instructor you think you would most enjoy. If you go to a class and they know you’re new but don’t make any adjustments to either yourself or others during the session – question if you’re getting the most bang for your buck. No matter how long you’ve been practicing a skill, there’s always improvements you can make to push your body that little bit more to see the change you want to see. Otherwise you could just as well follow a You Tube video or online class for that same level of service and they can be free of charge (or cheaper than in person)! Having someone be able to see you and help you make the most of the moves and adjust it to suit your abilities is a game changer.
It doesn’t matter how fit or otherwise you might feel at the moment, if you want to be able to move well in your older age, those that move the easiest are those who have good flexibility. We spend up to 70% on an average day either sat down or standing still and those joints need to be moved through their full range – even if it’s a focused 15 minutes a day moving your body in to different positions to get as full a range and stretch as is comfortable. The benefits will be seen much more quickly than you might think when done regularly.
Poor posture often leads to tight muscles and aching joints. Help yourself make it as easy as possible to maintain good posture throughout the day by using a rolled up a towel or cushion in your lower back to support you sitting more upright – you don’t have to spend a fortune on a lumbar support if you don’t want to and many can be far too squishy to make any real difference. It will also make it easier for you to sit with your shoulders back towards your spine and down away from those ears, especially if your feet are flat on floor! With the best will in the world, having a lumbar support will only be able to do its job if you’re sitting back on it. It’s really easy to lean forwards across a desk to a screen during that all important Teams meeting. If you can, bring the chair closer to where you need to see so you can feel more supported by the chair and hopefully less achy at the end of the day.
I know, I know – it takes a LOT of practice and repetition. Like going to the gym, there are muscles in your back and neck that don’t get a lot of attention so good posture takes time and consistency, but it does get easier plus you’ll look taller, slimmer and get less pain in your neck, shoulders and back! What’s not to like 🙂
Water & Flexibility?
Dehydration can lead to tight muscles and reduced mobility. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day helps to keep your muscles and joints lubricated (true story). It’s an essential component for muscle healing as it helps to facilitate many of the important physiological processes necessary for repairing and rebuilding our muscles. Having a bottle of water next to you can be useful to not only help you remember to sip regularly throughout the day but help you to know whether you’ve drunk enough and if that’s why you have a headache/feel lethargic/have aching muscles (delete as appropriate).
Love an Easy Win!
Flexibility for Busy Bees: Short on time? You don’t need to spend hours on the floor (or any time on the floor at all if you’re doing stretches in sitting or standing positions). 5-10 minutes on a regular basis is better than a one off 60 minute session – never to be repeated 🙂
Using your Breath: You can enhance your stretches by slowing your breathing down to help ease you further into a deeper range of movement as you relax.
The Power of Consistency: This is the key! Incorporating short, effective stretches into your daily routine whether you do any formal exercise or not, will allow you to see noticeable progress in your flexibility over time.
Zzzzzzz: Around 70% of adults don’t get the recommended 7hrs sleep a night. We know sleep is essential for muscle recovery and our overall health, and if you’re one of those 70% don’t feel alone. Before giving up on trying to improve sleep patterns, consider checking out free advice on websites such as https://www.mind.org.uk/ or https://www.sleepfoundation.org/ as a starting point. As frustrating as it can be, there is help out there.
Take a Break: If like many you sit for long periods – make sure you take regular breaks to stand up and stretch a few minutes each hour. If sitting on a chair, move your feet apart and reach your hands down to the ground between your legs for 10-15 seconds. Reach up over your head to stretch, tilt your head as far as it can go to one side (using the hand on the same side to add some over pressure) before repeating on the other side. If you don’t want to, you don’t need to be lunging around the office, but there are ways to fit in more subtle stretches in to your day.
Resistance Bands: Resistance bands can be a great way to improve your flexibility. You might want to have a chat with a personal trainer or physiotherapist about how to use them to perform exercises that target your hip flexors, shoulders, and back.
The Take Home?
While improving our level of bendiness takes time and effort, it’s never too late to start. Finding a way to fit in some of the ideas above as part of your normal routine can help you to see the tangible benefits within a matter of weeks. If you get stuck don’t take it as a sign to stop, take it as a sign to get some advice from a professional near you. You are worth the investment of time and effort!