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

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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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    Image Via

    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.

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          • 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

            A passionate writer who loves sharing about positive psychology.

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            Last Updated on September 8, 2021

            10 Fitness Excuses You Need to Stop Making Now

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            10 Fitness Excuses You Need to Stop Making Now

            “You can have results or excuses. Not both.” – Anonymous

            Human beings tend to only ever do as much as they absolutely need to.

            Motivational speakers call this innate trait laziness, biologists call it efficiency. Either way, the fact remains: we are evolutionary wired to minimize time and energy wherever possible.

            And this is not necessarily a bad thing. If we weren’t wired this way, we probably wouldn’t have survived this long as a species.

            Back in our caveman days, before supermarkets, calories were worth their weight in gold. For cavemen, trying to actively burn off calories would have spelled certain death.

            In this light, our fitness excuses make total sense. Our reptilian brain comes up with believable sounding rationalizations to stop us from burning off our precious calories; to minimize time and energy.

            Unfortunately, due to our present access to highly calorific foods, the fitness excuses that once ensured our survival, now send us to an early grave.

            Below I’ve provided the 10 most common fitness excuses our reptilian minds trick us into believing and why, ultimately, they’re all nonsense.

            1. I don’t have enough time.

            This is probably the most common fitness excuse of them all.

            First off, when you say you don’t have enough time, what you’re really saying is “I don’t have enough time for that”. 

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            Do you really think that if you were to add up all the time you spend watching TV and surfing the web throughout the average week you couldn’t replace any of it with a workout?

            A 30 minute workout takes up 2% of your day.

            Don’t ask yourself how much time you’re going to waste by working out a few times a week. Ask yourself how much of your life you’re going to waste being unfit and overweight.

            2. I’m way too tired to workout.

            Your mind, when it comes to exercising, is like a spoiled child. If you give in to its demands without a fight, it will see weakness and prey on it often.

            If you miss one planned session, you’re much more likely to miss the next. The biggest journey always starts with one step and the biggest failings always start with one step backwards.

            You need to show your mind who’s boss. You won’t always have lots of energy when you go to the gym but that doesn’t matter. The only thing that counts is showing up and giving it a shot.

            If you’re too tired to workout, change your sleeping habits, not your workout habits.

            3. But exercise is so boring!

            You don’t want to exercise because it’s boring?

            So you find brushing your teeth, taking showers, styling your hair and getting dressed highly entertaining? No. We do these things because we have to. We accept them as part of life.

            The people who never miss a workout are the ones who view it just like brushing their teeth. Complaining about it is just pointless. To be successful sometimes you’ve got to do things that aren’t as fun as watching your favorite TV show. That’s just life.

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            If don’t enjoy your workouts, you don’t stop working out, you just workout differently. Try crossfit, martial arts, hiking, body building, powerlifting, running, or swimming. Try music. Try anything, but keep showing up.

            4. I have no motivation to workout.

            If you think you need motivation to train you’re already half beat.

            What you really need is meta motivation: the motivation to train even when you’re not motivated. If you rely on your feelings to decide whether to workout or not, you never will. As you know, your feelings are designed to keep you caged up in your comfort pit.  Your feelings want you to be safe, not successful.

            That said, there is a trick you can use to get yourself motivated to workout, and it’s  backed up with research. It’s called ‘the few minutes’ principle.

            The basic idea is that procrastinators often put off doing certain things because the size of the task in front of them seems too overwhelming. By deciding to just go to the gym for a ‘few minutes’ you’ll often see the workout through to completion.

            Are you motivated enough to train for two minutes? That’s all you need.

            5. I have kids to look after.

            One day your kids might have someone to look after too: you.

            Don’t burden them with an ill parent when they have their own kids to look after. And don’t be the kind of parent who tells their kids exercise is good for them but doesn’t follow their own advice. Kids are smarter than that.

            If you’re really struggling with managing your fitness and your kids, combine the two. Find a field and play frisbee for a few hours, go swimming, take a walk around the lake and feed some ducks. There are so many fun and cheap ways to exercise with your kids, the only limits are your imagination.

            You kids should be your biggest reason to exercise, not your biggest excuse.

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            6. I don’t have anyone to train with.

            What you’re really saying with this fitness excuse is that you don’t have anyone to talk with while you train. If you’re training properly, you won’t need to talk.

            Don’t get me wrong, having a training partner is great but here’s what you’ve got to understand: most people first meet their training partners at the gym. The reason you probably don’t have anyone to train with is because you don’t have many friends who train. Like attracts like.

            By becoming someone who regularly trains, you’ll start attracting people into your life who also value health and fitness. You have to earn your training partners, they don’t come free.

            7. I don’t feel very well.

            After you get into the habit of overriding your fitness excuses and working out regularly, the thought of missing a workout starts to drive you insane. When I broke my jaw in two places the doctors told me I couldn’t lift heavy weights for three months. What did I do? I lifted light weights instead. Train smart, not hard.

            At some point in our lives we’ve all pretended to be ill so we could skip a day of school. Some of the better actors among us probably blurred the lines in their mind between real symptoms and those imagined. It’s easy to exaggerate things when it fits our agenda.

            If you’re really sick, I don’t recommend you train. But feeling a bit tired or achy – that’s no reason to skip a workout.

            8. The gym is too expensive or far.

            If you think you need a gym to achieve your fitness goals, you’ve been seriously misled.

            The world is your fitness playground. Ever watched a training scene from a Rocky movie? He chases chickens, runs up steps, punches meat, and chops wood. Many people cite these scenes as their favorite.  Something about training dirty and raw resonates deep within us.

            There are whole fitness subcultures dedicated to working out outdoors, and without formal equipment. Ever heard of Calisthenics, Tai Chi, Yoga or Parkour? Look them up.

            If you want to put on muscle, try some typical strongman training like chopping wood, flipping tires, lifting barrels. Remember, if it’s important enough to you, you’ll find a way. Arnold Schwarzenegger made his own gym equipment out of chairs and sticks for the first year he trained. He claims he gained 25 pounds of muscle from doing this.

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            9. I don’t know how to train properly.

            If you’re reading this article, you’re obviously more than capable of figuring this out. The internet is brimming with routines and training tips. This site alone will give you more than you need. Read these 10 tips for better workouts, perfect for beginners.

            However, it’s important that you don’t get too engulfed in the theory of ‘training properly’. Like most things in life, you learn best on the job. Ask people in the gym to show you how to use proper technique, then practice through action.

            People love giving out tips. You might even get a training partner out of it.

            10. I feel intimidated by the fit people there.

            This is normal and everyone has this when they first start out. The environment is new, everyone there looks like they know what they’re doing. You feel like you’re in someone else’s home.

            The number one reason you feel intimidated when you go to the gym is because you don’t go enough! If you started going regularly you’d get used to the place, the people and your fitness would improve. Everyone knows training improves your confidence. Just stick with it. It’s something you’ll laugh at a few months down the line.

            Anyone can get in great shape. Anyone can become fit. But very few people ever do because they give in to their natural inclination to minimize time and effort.

            Stop making excuses and just stick with it for two months. After that you’ll be finding excuses to workout even when you do have important stuff to get on with.

            Featured photo credit: United Artists, Chartoff-Winkler Productions via Rocky (1976)

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