Of all the components of overall fitness, one of the most often ignored is flexibility. Flexibility training and exercise for most people means 30 minutes of stretching before a run, or a few minutes of cool down at the end of an aerobics class. However, and performed consistently and correctly, a flexibility training program has much to offer.
So what are the advantages of flexibility training? Firstly, performed regularly it will increase physical performance. A tight joint moves through a reduced range of motion and requires more energy to do so, while the risk of injury is higher - stretching can allow you to apply your strength through a full range of motion, at less risk of injury.
Stretching can also help between workouts - slow, static stretching has been shown to reduce muscle soreness after exercise. Static stretching is defined as slow, gradual and controlled stretching through the full range of motion for 15-30 seconds.
For those who suffer from low back pain, regular stretching can be a huge help. Stretching the low back, hamstrings, hip flexors, quadriceps, and other muscles attached to the pelvis reduces stress to the low back and promotes muscular relaxation.
Another benefit is that stretching increases tissue temperature, which in turn increases circulation and nutrient transport. This allows greater elasticity of surrounding tissues and increases performance. Stretching also promotes the transport of more nutrients to the joints, allowing a greater range of motion and reduced joint degeneration.
Finally, stretching helps relax both mind and body, and allows you to better enjoy your workout programme. For all these reasons and more, stretching should be a key component of your exercise routine. If you are unsure how or when to stretch, talk to an exercise professional to be sure you get the full benefit from this excellent part of your workout programme.