We all know about exercise and sports. Commercials play all day on our TVs advertising how to obtain a better body, look more attractive, run faster, get stronger by signing up for their gym, or buying their revolutionary new fitness product. Professional sports run on cable TV 24/7 full of male and female star athletes hitting balls, running, shooting baskets, and getting paid in millions for doing so. Admittedly, it's pretty entertaining to watch all of this and of course fun to engage in competitive sports with our friends.
But unfortunately, it seems that the simple act of stretching gets far less attention in our media culture. Though perhaps not nearly as glamorous, nor as well paid as professional football, stretching should be considered just as important to our bodies and routine as any other form of physical activity. If you find yourself doing your workout at the gym and then wanting to run out the door without working on your flexibility, you’ll be regretting it later down the road.
Stretching movements are in fact as critical to our body's health and athleticism as lifting weights and cardiovascular training. Most importantly, decades' worth of studies have proven that mobility stretches not only improve our sports performance, but our joints' range of motion as well. Perhaps most importantly of all, flexibility stretches help prevent the risk of injury. Whether you work a sedentary desk job all day, fight mixed martial arts for a living, or are just concerned about your body as it ages, your body’s flexibility will help to keep you healthy, pain-free, and enjoying your day at every stage of your life.
When we neglect stretching as part of our routine, our muscles become tight and don’t perform as effectively as they should. The act of stretching actually lengthens out the muscles that contract and tighten from lack of use when remaining in static positions (i.e. sitting). Tight muscles then cause undue strain on the neighboring joints and muscles causing them to overcompensate.
Even if you’re not a fitness junkie or regular athlete, no one wants to be that person who has trouble bending forward to tie their shoelaces or puts their back out picking up the groceries. Simple everyday tasks can cause unpleasant injuries to our bodies and flexibility stretching is the best known way to keep ourselves pain-free. And although we may not like it, as our bodies age, our muscles become less elastic than they once were. This is when we can start to feel pain, muscular imbalance, and discomfort in our bodies. Therefore, the maintenance and improvement of our musculature are of primary importance to keeping our bodies healthy.
Luckily for all of us, we don’t need an expensive gym membership or special equipment to get our bodies in tip-top shape. All you need is a small investment of time every week to start conditioning and lengthening your different muscles. Have a look at some of the stretches below. Some of them can be performed after your workout, or simply at your desk during your break. Start slow, and work your way up to greater heights of flexibility. After just a few weeks of this routine, you’ll find yourself with less discomfort, performing better physically, and with a better mood overall.