Many factors impact flexibility. Lifestyle, age, gender and individual physical characteristics such as bone structure and muscle mass all affect our level of flexibility.
Regardless of these factors, stretching can have significant benefits to quality of life, including flexibility, balance, posture, back pain, and human performance.
The Basics of Stretching
Strength Training, Cardiovascular Exercise and Stretching are all key components to a comprehensive exercise program.
The two basic types of stretching are assisted and unassisted stretching.
• Assisted Stretching uses outside assistance such as body weight, a strap, leverage or gravity as an aid to improve the stretch. This is the most common form of stretching.
• Unassisted Stretching stretches one muscle by actively contracting another muscle. Unassisted stretching requires more effort, but can be very helpful for improving movement in everyday life and sports performance because it develops strength while building flexibility.
Both types of stretching can be used statically, where the stretch is held for a short period or dynamically, where the stretch is done in motion and repeated multiple times.
To get the most out of stretching there needs to be a balance between assisted and unassisted stretches.
For those over 40 it’s important to know that subtle changes begin to occur in our muscles and joints that make them progressively stiffer, less functional and more prone to injury. While this aging process can’t be stopped, it can be slowed down by remaining fit, active and flexible. Research shows that regular stretching can significantly improve flexibility for individuals in the second half of life and up into the eighties and nineties.
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