by Philip A. Anloague, P.T., D.H.Sc., O.C.S., M.T.C.
Being flexible is more than just about being able to touch your toes. You may gain improved range of motion, function, posture and circulation.
Some people claim that better flexibility helps decrease stress and tension and reduces your chances of injury, pain and dysfunction. Just remember that if stretching does help prevent injury, research has shown that you have to incorporate more than just flexibility. You also need good muscle strength and balance, cardiovascular endurance, hydration and nutrition, and a healthy lifestyle.
See the boxes below for exampls of leg stretches that promote these types of flexibility:
Types of Flexibility
- Static Flexibility: The ability to assume and maintain a specific range of motion for a particular joint.
- Dynamic Flexibility: The ability to move through a range of motion at various speeds and across multiple joints.
For daily living (tying your shoes, climbing stairs, taking leisurely walks), focus on static with some dynamic stretches.
For recreational sports and endurance activities (fitness programs, running, biking), perform equal amounts of static and dynamic stretches.
How to Stretch
Warm up first for a few minutes with low-level aerobic activities. (Once you start to sweat, you’re ready.) Then stretch. The purpose of stretching before a workout is mainly to get muscles ready for exercise. For a lasting effect, also stretch after vigorous activity and allow your muscles to cool down in the stretched position. Most people should stretch at least three times a week.
How to Do Static Stretches to Get Flexible
- Start slowly. Stretching doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Start with holding a stretch for 10 seconds; increase to 20, then 30 seconds as you improve. You can work up to one to two minutes if you want. Try to match the duration of the stretch to the activity for which it’s intended.
- Understand the purpose of the stretch.
- Use good technique.
- Relax and breath easily.
- Stretch to pain.
How to Do Dynamic Stretches to Get Flexible
- Take up the stretch position and hold.
- Move only one joint motion at a time.
- Move the joint slowly and smoothly through the range of motion.
- Force the stretch.
- Hold your breath.
- Stretch to pain.
PHILIP A. ANLOAGUE, P.T., D.H.Sc., O.C.S., M.T.C., is program director of the doctor of physical therapy program at the University of Dayton, in Ohio, and has a second-degree black belt in tae kwon do.
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Last updated and/or approved: May 2012. Original article appeared in September/October 2007 former print magazine. Bio current as of that issue. This general health-care information is not meant as individual advice. Please see our disclaimer.