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Why Improving Flexibility Is Critical To Your Health (+5 Stretch Exercises To Try At Home)

Why Improving Flexibility Is Critical To Your Health (+5 Stretch Exercises To Try At Home)

Staying flexible through our lives is extremely important for our overall health. As we get older, having muscular flexibility will help with a greater quality of life, allowing us to keep moving freely in everyday activities and maintain balance throughout the body.

The Benefits Of Good Muscular Flexibility

  • Prevents everyday injury: Muscle and disc strain from simply turning in bed, shoulder strains from lifting, and even walking up and down stairs can be prevented with greater flexibility.
  • Lengthens muscles: This helps you look much leaner.
  • Improves posture: Flexible muscles around the back are able to support the spine.
  • Makes cardio workouts much easier: Running or walking will become much lighter and easier.
  • Enhances sport performance: Flexible movements in the joints and muscles will allow you to be more efficient in various sports.
  • Allows you to move better in confined spaces: The ability to sit in different positions while traveling will be much easier.

Simple Stretches For Better Flexibility

1. Seated Spinal Twist

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    This exercise is good for targeting the back, abs, and obliques.

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    • Sit on the floor with your back straight and tall. Engage your abs and stretch both legs out in front of you.
    • Bring your right leg up and place it over your left leg.
    • With your left arm holding your right leg, slowly rotate your upper body around to the right, keeping your nose in line with your breastbone.
    • Stretch around as far as possible until you feel a gentle stretch throughout your back and side.
    • Hold for 30 seconds and return to center. Repeat on the left side.
    • Aim to do 10 reps.

    2. Reclining Pigeon

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      This exercise is good for stretching lower back, hips, glutes, and hamstrings.

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      • Lie down facing up, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor.
      • Cross a flexed right foot over your left thigh. Hook your arms around the left hamstring.
      • Lift your left foot off the floor, keeping your back and shoulders flat to the ground.
      • Gently pull your right leg towards you until you feel a stretch. Hold this position for a 1-2 minute(s) and release your feet to the ground.
      • Repeat on the opposite side.

      3. Standing Tricep Stretch

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        This exercise stretches the muscles in your neck, shoulders, back, abs, and triceps.

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        • Stand up tall, straight-backed with feet hip-width apart and arms extended above your head.
        • Bend your right elbow so that the palm is placed on the upper back.
        • Reach your left hand over to grab your right elbow and gently pull your elbow back and towards your head.
        • Hold this position for up to a minute, release, and swap sides.

        4. Swan Stretch

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          This exercise target the shoulders, back, chest, abs, obliques, and hip flexors.

          • Lying face down on the floor, place your hands in front of your shoulders, fingers facing forward, and legs stretched out behind you.
          • Pressing down with your hands, gently lift your belly off the floor. Keep your abs engaged, shoulders down, and pelvis grounded parallel with the floor.
          • Lengthen the upper body away from the floor, reaching up and out from the crown of the head. Make sure you draw your shoulder blades together. Hold this pose for 30 to 45 seconds and release. Repeat 5 times to increase flexibility.

          5. Hip Flexor/Quad Stretch

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            This stretch targets hip flexors, quads, and hamstrings.

            • Kneel on the floor with both knees bent, shins on floor.
            • Lunge your right leg forward, so that your right knee is bent 90 degrees in front of you, your right foot is flat on the floor directly under the knee, and your left leg is still bent underneath you, parallel to the right.
            • Place both hands on top of your right knee and press back, hip forward, and lean into the stretch.
            • Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other leg.

            Things To Keep In Mind

            • Keep water handy when stretching to encourage yourself to hydrate.
            • Try to perform these stretches daily to see and feel the best results.
            • Perform them either first thing in the morning or before bedtime, but especially after any exercise.
            • Make sure you don’t over-stretch. Go as far as it’s comfortable for you. You’ll get more flexible with ease with practice.
            • Work with warm muscles because they lengthen more easily and with less discomfort.
            • Breathe comfortably. Exhale as the muscle lengthens to assist in relaxation.

            Featured photo credit: unsplash.com via pexels.com

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            Jenny Marchal

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            Published on April 12, 2019

            7 Best Weight Loss Supplements That Are Healthy and Effective

            7 Best Weight Loss Supplements That Are Healthy and Effective

            The proceeding article has been written from my own personal experience with weight loss, along with research I’ve personally conducted, and from conversations I’ve held with individuals in the health and wellness space. The below suggestions for supplements are being given under the pretence that you will in fact investigate these substances further to conclude if they make sense for you personally or not.

            I’m a huge proponent of research and information, and also suggest you consider a DNA analysis test such as ones available through companies like Ansestory and 23andme. You can download your raw DNA data, and then upload it to FoundMyFitness Genetics – Genome Analysis Tool by Dr. Rhonda Patrick, or Promethease.

            The purpose of uploading your raw DNA data is in order to gather information pertaining to supplementation, dietary habits, and albeit lifestyle decisions that will be optimal/in accordance with your genealogy. You can then apply this information in your day to day life in order to become the best version of you!

            Before we dive into the list of supplements, ask the following question first:

            Do You Need Supplements?

            The short answer is not really, however as mentioned above, you may want to consider certain supplements by the mere fact that they are suggestible for your gene type.

            An example of this for me personally is a genetic predisposition to Vitamin D deficiency, which came up in my comprehensive DNA report. With this information in mind, I make an active effort to supplement Vitamin D, and get my butt into some sunlight as often as possible!

            So in certain cases supplements may not be totally required, but highly advisable.

            When I began losing weight several years back, many thoughts ran through my mind, from bogus weight loss supplements, to even considering the quick and easy liposuction of 40-50lbs.

            However when I took a moment to listen to my own instinct and intuition, the truth about these ideologies is that they do not solve the root of the problem – lifestyle choices.

            My general opinion on supplementation for weight loss is that one need not focus on substances or external things in order to achieve weight loss.

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            When I was losing weight, after having gained it through silly lifestyle choices (to keep things short), my focus was not on supplements but on the consistent effort towards maximal weight loss and fat loss.

            In order to maximize weight/fat loss — I’ve discussed many times over the importance of incorporating Intermittent Fasting (Time-Restricted Eating), in conjunction with high activity levels throughout the week.

            Simply put, you need to consider how you structure your eating, as well as the amount of exercise, effort, and overall exertion – leading to daily caloric expenditure.

            Get yourself in a healthy caloric deficit, not by starving yourself, but by exercising, eating healthy and within a Time-Restricted “eating window”.

            7 Supplements To Consider for Weight Loss

            1. Caffeine or Green Tea/Extract (Matcha)

            This is one of the quickest and most easily accessible supplements for weight loss.

            Caffeine can boost the metabolic rate and increase fat burning. However, people become tolerant to the effects, and as such its impact will slowly diminish.

            Matcha is derived from the same plant as Green Tea – Camellia sinensis. Matcha tea is low in calories, and high in antioxidants such as Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG). Scientists at the University of Colorado found that the EGCG content in matcha is 137 times more than Chinese green tea. These antioxidants can help flush out toxins, boost immunity, and reduce the body’s inflammation, which helps prevent weight gain and accelerates weight loss.

            Matcha can boost metabolism and aid in fat burning while also balancing blood glucose levels.

            2. Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)

            Your body naturally produces alpha-lipoic acid, but it’s also found in a variety of foods and as a dietary supplement typically in pill form.

            ALA is an organic compound found in all human cells, made inside the mitochondria – where it helps enzymes turn nutrients into energy. Some research suggests that it may play a roll in weight loss, diabetes and more. There have also been antioxidant properties associated with ALA such as the ability to lower blood sugar levels, reduce inflammation, reduce skin ageing, and improve nerve function.

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            You can obtain ALA without supplementation from animal products such as red meat and organ meats, along with plant foods like broccoli, tomatoes, spinach and Brussels sprouts.

            Animal studies have indicated that ALA can reduce the activity of the enzyme AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), located in your brain’s hypothalamus. Meanwhile, human studies conducted showed that alpha-lipoic acid has only a slight impact on weight loss. An analysis of 12 studies discovered that people who took an alpha-lipoic acid supplement lost an average of 1.52 pounds (0.69 kg) more than those taking a placebo over an average of 14 weeks.

            Personally I use ALA on and off when I’m looking to cut weight.

            3. Glutamine

            Generally speaking, Glutamine is beneficial because it improves the maintenance of muscle mass, which in turn helps burn more fat.

            By introducing Glutamine to your diet it will also yield anti-inflammatory benefits and help reduce cravings for high-glycemic carbohydrates.

            Foods that are high in glutamine include meat, seafood, milk, nuts, eggs, cabbage and beans.[1]

            4. Krill Oil

            High in omega-3 fatty acids, which yields various health benefits, including improved heart and brain health, a reduced risk of depression and even healthier skin.

            Researchers have suggested that fish oil omega-3s may help people lose weight more easily.

            Studies have concluded that while both fish-sourced and krill-sourced omega-3 fats are effective in reducing fat levels, krill is more effective. The mechanisms of how this is so had not been made clear in the study, but suggested long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs) can reduce activity in the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system consists of a group of neuromodulatory lipids and receptors that influence appetite, pain sensation, mood and memory.

            Researchers found that, when parameters associated with obesity were considered, krill oil reduced heart fat levels in rats by 42 percent, compared to 2 percent for fish oils.

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            I personally shifted from Alaskan Wild Salmon fish oils to Krill Oil due to the fact that it’s more potent and overall more effective, though the cost of the supplement is slightly more.

            5. Apple Cider Vinegar

            Many would note that apple cider vinegar is a low calorie drink; however, my focus on noting this supplement is relating to suppressing fat accumulation which was found in animal studies.

            A team of researchers also investigated the effects on obese Japanese in a double-blind trial. Daily intake of apple cider vinegar may be practical in the prevention of metabolic syndrome by reducing obesity.

            Additionally, some studies suggest that apple cider vinegar helps stabilise blood sugar levels, and primarily after consuming a high carbohydrate meal.

            There’s many other benefits of apple cider vinegar to note, however they don’t directly correlate with weight loss, so for now I’ll leave them unmentioned, but encourage you look further into this powerful supplement.

            6. L-Carnitine

            This supplement is a bit speculative, and I haven’t had too much personal experience with it, thus it’s towards the bottom of the list.

            L-Carnitine plays a crucial role in the production of energy by transporting fatty acids into your cells’ mitochondria – which acts as engines within your cells, burning fats to create usable energy. This helps move more fatty acids into your cells to be burned for energy, so it’s suggested this would increase the ability to burn fat and thus lose weight. However, results of both human and animal studies are mixed in this case.

            This is one of those supplements that may work for one person, but not another, and it’s highly discussed and debated in the bodybuilding and fat loss community.

            I suggest you look further into L-Carnitine, and perhaps experiment on a trial to see if you notice any improvements in weight loss and fat reduction.

            7. Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) [Bonus]

            CLA is a naturally occurring fatty acid found in meat and dairy products. This supplement is gaining popularity and has become widely regarded as a contender for the weight-loss miracle pill.

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            Though I personally do not think such a magic pill exists, it’s certainly fun to throw around the term ‘miracle’ and generates a lot of buzz in doing so.

            During a trial, one group of overweight women lost 9% body fat in one year’s time without any adjustments in lifestyle or eating habits.

            Now, don’t take this as a suggestion to not improve lifestyle, as I introduced this article with the pretence that it’s the most important aspect of losing weight.

            In a few small animal studies, CLA has been shown to prevent heart disease and several types of cancer, while appearing to enhance the immune system. Human studies are not as conclusive as they used body fat scales (such as DEXA – Dual-Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry) to measure improvements, which are inherently not that accurate.

            This is another one of those supplements I suggest researching further, and trialling in conjunction with lifestyle adjustments to see if it works for you.

            The Bottom Line

            Once again I can’t stress enough that merely supplementing for weight loss will not yield exponential results – you must exercise, move your body, and I highly advise introducing Intermittent Fasting/Time-Restricted Eating if you haven’t already done so.

            Please research more into these supplements to determine if they make sense for you. And I don’t suggest using all at once as you won’t be able to accurately gauge which are most effective – cycle through them by taking one, two, upwards of 3 supplements at any given time. If you want to experiment, then switch after a couple months of use.

            I wish you the best of luck with your weight loss journey and if would like to learn more about the above supplements, take a look at my video here:

            Featured photo credit: bruce mars via unsplash.com

            Reference

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