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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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    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

        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

            Freelance Writer

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            Published on November 29, 2018

            When is the Best Time to Workout to Get Incredible Results

            When is the Best Time to Workout to Get Incredible Results

            “I don’t have time”

            is the number one excuse people give when they’re asked how come they don’t exercise.

            In the book The Power of Full Engagement by Tony Schwartz, it says that it’s management of our energy levels and not time that is the key to higher performance. If we kept our energy levels in check and made sure that every part of our lives contributed to positive energy levels, we would be able to get more done.

            One of those aspects that give us energy is exercise.

            Exercise is the fuel that gives us energy and an activity that keeps on giving even if we are sitting around day in the office and in meetings.

            Reaping the benefits of a good workout is immediate. We have better focus and concentration; we are more alert and awake; we manage our mood better and have more creativity after a good workout than if we skipped the gym.

            If you’d like to get started working out I’m going cover the pros and cons to exercising at different times of the day so that you can find a time that fits for your lifestyle and schedule.

            So, when is the best time to work out? Let’s get started!

            Working out in the Morning

            Most people aspire to exercise first thing in the morning and get it out of the way. If this is you, read on to find out the additional benefits of getting your workout done in the morning.

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            Benefits of Morning Workouts

            1. The rest of the day is yours

            Exercise and lifting weights is a staple and a habit in my life but it’s also the biggest to-do on my list. When I exercise first thing in the morning, then I’m free to do whatever I want the rest of the day. This is why I have a very strong preference of exercising in the morning as oppose to afternoons or evenings.

            I schedule my day with my biggest to-dos first while I have the energy and focus at the beginning of the day. But the more I procrastinate about my workout and putting it on my list for later, the bigger that reminder to exercise sits on my shoulder.

            My mind feels free when I finish my workout and this is the main reason I get my exercise in as soon as the day allows; and if I have to get up before the sun rises, then so be it.

            2. Gyms are less crowded and there is more equipment available

            Here’s the best part about working out early in the morning – there is not competition for equipment.

            Most people typically struggle with getting up early in the morning except for the elderly. And in the morning, the gym floors are pretty sparse, this means there is no wait for equipment or competing for floor space.

            I live in the crowded city of San Francisco where the gyms are packed once it gets to 9 AM, so the best times to get in if I want a squat rack is before 8 AM. Plus, the gym equipment is organized so I can find the free weights I want without much effort and there is usually a bench available.

            3. You have more energy and more clarity to fire up the day

            After you drag yourself to the gym at the crack of dawn, you will walk out of there with more energy and clarity then when you stepped in. Not only will you wide awake but you have extra energy on top of your cup of coffee.

            The extra burst of creativity and focus keeps you productive so that you’re able to make more progress on your projects at work and finish earlier.

            4. You become more consistent

            The ones who see results are the ones who are consistent and morning people are definitely more consistent than people who postpone their workouts later in the day.[1]

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            This is because as the day starts to unfold, unexpected meetings and events come up that can cut into or even eliminate gym time. If you want to workout more consistently, get your workout in first thing in the morning before life happens.

            Downsides of Morning Workouts

            1. You’re a zombie on the floor

            Of course dragging yourself out of bed before the sun rises is why most people struggle with morning workouts. Some of us, like me, don’t want to talk to anyone before a certain time and get really short on a lack of sleep.

            To combat morning zombie, make sure to get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep.

            2. Your preparation starts the night before

            Your workout may happen in the morning but your preparation starts the night before. If you’re a last minute person and not a planner, you will struggle in the mornings to get out the door in time.

            Packing everything you need for the gym in the morning is the key to getting to your workout in that day. Support successful mornings by modifying your night time routine in order to prepare for the next day.

            How to Make It Easier to Wake Up

            The first step is to make a commitment and stick with it. Don’t go back and forth the night before on whether you should go to the gym in the morning.

            Make the decision to go in the morning and focus your energy on making it happen.

            When you create that habit, you do it even if your workout is less than optimal and you’re not completely ‘all there’ or you’re a zombie in the morning. Just keep going because repetition makes it easier and the more often you go, the easier it gets.

            Eventually your brain will catch up and start to automatically be awake at those times.

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            A question you can ask yourself is what can you do to make it easier for you?

            Can you set your workout clothes out the night before? Or have your breakfast prepared the night before? Or if you’re an alarm snoozer, put your alarm across the room and set back up alarms to make sure you get out of bed to shut them off.

            Again, what can you do to make it 20 seconds easier to help you get up and out of the door in the morning?

            Working out in the Afternoon/Evening

            So what about working out in the evening? Is it a good time to help achieve your fitness goals?

            Benefits of Evening Workouts

            1. Your body performance is at its peak

            When you’re training in the afternoon, your warm ups can be shorter because your body temperature increases throughout the day.

            A higher body temperature leads to increased flexibility,[2] overall muscle strength,[3] and increased endurance.

            Not only does the combination of low blood pressure and heart rate in the afternoon lead to faster reaction times and better performance, but also less likelihood injury.

            At the same time the muscle growth hormone testosterone also peaks in the afternoon which is great for maximizing resistance training.

            2. An accountability partner is easier to come by

            If you’re someone who needs accountability partner to make it to the gym consistently, it could be easier to find a workout buddy in the afternoon than it is in the early morning. There is more flexibility in scheduling during lunch or after work as oppose to early mornings because it could cut into your sleep.

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            3. You have more class options

            If you’re a class person or like to attend group classes, I found that there are more class options in the afternoon/evening times versus mornings. So your favorite instructor may teach a couple more classes in the afternoon during the week giving you more flexibility in your schedule.

            4. It’s a great way to destress after a long day

            One of my favorite reasons to workout in the afternoon is the relief it provides after a long day at work. This is especially true for those who work long stressful hours. That hour you spend at the gym is dedicated you time to zone out is completely relaxing for the mind.[4]

            Downsides of Evening Workouts

            1. Consistency could take a back seat

            Postponing your workouts till later in the day means you are more likely to skip your workouts because of an unexpected event. You’re also more likely to be low on energy after a long stressful day or you have to stay late at work and cancel your workout.

            I find afternoon and evening workouts challenging because I’m ready to wind down after a long day and instead have to find the energy to wind up and be mentally prepared for my workout.

            2. Crowded gyms and classes

            For the most part, gyms are packed in the afternoon because of the after work crowd and in some cases gyms require you to RSVP to classes ahead of time due to limited spots. Majority of the people prefer working out after work and you’ll see an influx in crowds at the gym.

            3. Additional preparation required

            Working out after work means you need to be more mindful of your meals and make sure that you have prepared additional snacks to help you get through your workout.

            It also means lugging around an extra bag with your gym clothes and other essentials.

            Conclusion

            At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what time of day you workout because your body will adjust to your schedule when you go the same times every time. What’s important is that you find a time that you can go to the gym consistently that works with your schedule.

            It’s important to be consistent because consistency is what’s going to get you results. The road to results is simple but not easy. Mastering consistency year round is what is going to make you leaner and stronger one year from now.

            Featured photo credit: Autumn Goodman via unsplash.com

            Reference

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