How Does Flexibility Affect Your Health?

The Impact of Flexibility Training on Your Health

Most people associate flexibility with dancing, performance art, sports, or yoga. It’s considered more of a skill than a health necessity. In this respect, people would be mistaken.

Flexibility (also limberness) is more than the ability to touch your toes and bend or contort your body in ways that most people cannot achieve. It is a component of physical fitness and an indication of a body’s range of movement. The more flexible you are, the more you can do.

While some people are born naturally limber, many have to work harder to condition their musculoskeletal systems to become more flexible. If you consider yourself as one of the latter, you’ll have much to gain if you work on improving your flexibility.

Why is Flexibility Important?

Exercises that make your body more limber also improve your posture, mobility, and muscle coordination. They strengthen your core, back, and neck muscles, too.

This is because stretching is a major part of flexibility training. Stretching exercises target muscle groups, flexing and stretching them to increase their elasticity and improve their form. These exercises also condition the joints, ligaments, and tendons to be stronger and allow a wider range of motion and better control of the bones and muscles.

The musculoskeletal improvements that develop when you do flexibility exercises on the regular can give you the following health benefits:

Better Posture

When you sit on a desk for hours at a time and working on your laptop, your torso may gradually give in to gravity and become increasingly curved. Often, you don’t even notice how much you’ve slumped forward towards your computer screen until you get a crick in your neck or your back starts feeling sore.

Your muscles shorten when you are in a slumped, hunch-backed position for extended periods. It causes the tight, sore sensation in the waist and pelvic area when you rise after sitting with a curved back for hours. Doing short, flexibility exercises in-between can help alleviate the pain and correct your posture the next time you sit back down.

Additionally, sports trainers say that flexibility training can improve the body’s overall shape. It’s what contributes to many athletes’ lean and toned figures.     

Reduced Risk of Certain Ailments and Diseases

It may not register immediately, but bad posture can lead to a host of health problems. Harvard Medical School cites the following as key examples of posture-related problems:

  • Fatigue
  • Poor quality of sleep
  • Heartburn
  • Incontinence
  • Constipation
  • Curved spine

Posture can also impact your mood and jaw alignment, according to Harvard.

Low Risk of Injuries

A stronger and more flexible body is more capable of withstanding physical stress. This is one of the reasons why contact sports athletes incorporate stretching into their daily exercises and pre-game training programs.

Stretching expands the muscle fibers and makes them more pliable, stronger, and responsive to fight-and-flight scenarios. It also strengthens the connective tissue that supports the muscles and internal organs. Hence, people who are flexible because of regular training have a low risk of obtaining physical injuries.

Less incidence of back pain

Chronic lower back pain is often caused by a tightness of the muscles (poor posture being one of its leading causes). Stretching is one of the most recommended therapies that address chronic pain. It can both prevent and heal an existing injury. Recall, too, that the circumstances leading to a person’s heightened flexibility — habitual exercise and training of targeted muscle groups — lower the risk for injuries that may cause chronic pain.

The work that you put into increasing your flexibility can have a positive impact on your health. The outcomes discussed above are worth the effort. Work with an experienced fitness trainer so that you’re sure you’re doing the correct flexibility exercises.

girl in downward dog pose

How Stretching Can Help Reduce Stress and Anxiety

Reduce Your Stress and Anxiety through Stretching

Now that we’re in the middle of a pandemic, things have no doubt gotten a lot harder than before. There’s no telling when or if life will go back to the way it was pre-pandemic. This is one of the rare eras in human history wherein the future is uncertain for everyone.

You probably spent the last months exploring all options to keep yourself and your family financially healthy. Hopefully, you’ve been giving the same level of attention to your health as well. If you haven’t, now is the best time to assess your physical and mental well-being — specifically, if stress and anxiety are plaguing your waking moments.

How Stress and Anxiety Harm Your Health

The American Brain Society calls chronic stress “the silent killer” because it leads to conditions that could develop into something more dangerous. For example, it is typical for a person who’s under stress to experience headaches and body pains. But if the stress persists, there could be another possible underlying cause: irregularity in the blood flow, which results in oxygen and nutrient deprivation in some areas of the body.

Here are some of the potentially serious conditions that medical researchers have linked to stress and anxiety:

  • Digestion problems
  • Weak immune system
  • Susceptibility to infections
  • Depression and mood disorders
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue

It’s important, therefore, to manage your stress and anxiety as quickly as possible. One way to do this (without depending on medication) is by stretching.

What Does Stretching Do for Your Body?

Harvard Medical School has published many papers and articles touting exercise as a remedy to stress and anxiety. People who exercise experience behavioral changes that are boosted by chemical production in the brain. It works this way:

  • Exercise, in general, lowers adrenaline and cortisol — stress hormones that trigger the body to go into a “flight or fight” mode.
  • Exercise stimulates the production of endorphins in the brain. Endorphins are responsible for the relaxed and positive outlook people have after completing a rigorous exercise routine or achieving their running goals (also called “runner’s high”).
  • Exercise loosens the muscles, encourages deep breathing, and improves blood circulation. These directly combat the physical symptoms of stress, such as painful back muscles, a clenched jaw, taut facial muscles, dry mouth, and tense posture. According to Harvard researchers, putting the body in a relaxed state through exercise can send calming signals to the mind. This approach can break the stress cycle and improve mental fitness.

Stretching is the ideal type of exercise because everyone can do it regardless of their fitness level. It’s a good start for those who don’t exercise, and those who already exercise a lot can still find satisfaction in it.

When you stretch, you:

  • Make your body and thoughts slow down. You can enter a meditative state and proactively reduce your mental stress.
  • Move all muscle groups, from your face to your extremities.
  • Discover the areas in your body that are tense and need more stretching.
  • Improve your balance, posture, and spinal alignment.
  • Become more aware of your mind and body.

The Best Exercise During Quarantine

One of the best things about stretching as an exercise is you can do it anytime, anywhere. With many gyms and fitness centers being closed indefinitely because of the COVID-19 pandemic, stretching is one of the few exercises that are doable in your own home — in your work chair, even.

Dedicate as much time and effort in caring for your health as you do your business. After all, you become more alert, creative, and energized to work when you’re at your peak condition.