Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Flexibility and fitness

Fitness isn’t just about losing fat and gaining muscle.

Flexibility is the ability to move muscles through a range of motion and is one of the most important components of fitness, especially as we age, according to Amanda Jillson, assistant director of fitness and instructional programs at TRAC.

“Flexibility is reduced when muscles become shortened and tightened, which can cause injury or strain to your body,” she said. “Those with lower flexibility have increased risk of back injury. The weaker we are in our backs, ligaments and muscles, the more prone we are to injury.”

The best way to increase our body’s flexibility is through stretching, which should be a major part of our fitness regime, Jillson said. Stretching is especially important to do as we get older and our bodies lose flexibility. Quality of life is enhanced by improving and maintaining a good range of motion in the joints.

“There are various types of stretching we can do, whether it’s participating in our own series of stretches or taking a class like yoga,” Jillson said.

Stretching before you exercise isn’t as necessary as stretching after.

“It’s better to stretch warm muscles,” Jillson said. “Warm up before you stretch, so if you want to stretch before your workout, do a couple of minutes of cardio exercise, then stretch before you begin your exercise routine.”

Check out a previous Staying on TRAC article and video about specific stretches for different parts of the body. It’s best to hold each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds, Jillson said.

“Increase in flexibility helps to prevent injury, enhance performance and helps maintain the body as we age,” she said.



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