Why is flexibility so important?
In a Pilates class, a lot of focus can be put on flexibility training and stretching. We had a bit of fun in a class a few weeks ago as we were doing 5 stretching exercises that would get us all closer to achieving the splits. After a bit of groaning by some clients, someone piped up asking "Why is it important to be flexible?"
Here are 6 reasons why you should work on your flexibility.
1. Reduce your chances of injury
There is scientific evidence that the incidence of injury is decreased when people include flexibility training into their physical exercise routines. This is due to the fact that stretching enhances your ability to move unimpeded by tighter, restricted muscles.
2. Improve Fitness
Improved flexibility may enhance performance in aerobic training. By building strong muscle fibres you can boost your metabolism and your fitness level and improve blood circulation.
3. Achieve the full range of movement
It would be wonderful to live in a body that can move the way it was meant to move fully, wouldn't it? We’ve all watched dancers, gymnasts and even contortionist and been amazed that the human body can achieve such movement. Our bodies were made to move and flexibility helps get our bodies to its full range of movement.
4. Body Awareness and Body Love.
Flexibility training increases body awareness where you can be more in-tune with your body and it can be relaxing and therapeutic. A study based on yoga practitioners showed that with practice a greater awareness of and responsiveness to bodily sensations improved with the exercise. Not only that, but lower levels of self-objectification and greater body satisfaction were reported.
Studies have now proven that stretching before exercise has little or no effect on recovery of muscles post-exercise. It is also not recommended to stretch until you have completed a warm-up when more blood and oxygen is flowing through the muscles first. However, reducing muscle soreness after exercise is a cornerstone objective of stretching after exercise for recovery.
Stretching and increased flexibility assists with posture by balancing tension placed across all joints and muscles. Good posture minimises stress on joints and strengthens the muscles that support the joints too.
7. Exceptions / Caveat
Hyper-flexibility is when joints that are more flexible than normal or that move in excess of a normal range of motion are considered hypermobile. This can also be true for women during pregnancy. Hyper-flexibility can therefore put one at risk of injury as their range of movement would be unstable.