When we want to improve our cardio, we go for a run or a swim, and if it’s strength we’re seeking, we hit the weights in the gym. Improving flexibility is a little bit harder, and perhaps lower down on most people’s list of fitness priorities. However, there are good reasons to boost how flexible we are—it will keep muscles and joints supple for longer, and help improve a range of exercises including running, swimming, and dancing. If you are feeling particularly stiff when you stretch, read this list of ways to improve your flexibility.
Dynamic Stretching Before You Exercise
Before you run, do you try the odd quad stretch and touch your toes? There is some evidence that static stretching (standing still and moving one muscle group at a time) does little to benefit the muscles before activity. Try some dynamic stretching instead—imagine you’re dancing, reach up to the ceiling with your arms as you raise yourself on tiptoes, and twist your waist as you lift one leg. Try to make the movements fluid, and as you stretch increase your reach so that the muscles are gradually warmed up.
Static Stretch After Exercise
When you finish your activity, your muscles should be warm and the blood should be pumping around your body. When cooling down, this is the time for those static stretches—think quad stretches, tricep stretches, lunges to stretch out the hamstrings and calf muscles.
Take Up Yoga
Activities like yoga and pilates are excellent, and if done regularly then you will quickly notice a difference in your flexibility. Don’t push your body to attempt poses that you’re not ready for, there should be some resistance in your muscles but no sharp pains or aches. There are many videos and tutorials aimed at beginners online, but ideally, you will do in-person classes so that your teacher can check and correct your form.