As a kid and teenager, it seemed as though flexibility was a given, but with age it becomes more elusive, and something that must be consciously improved. Prolonged sitting takes a toll on the flexibility of the leg muscles, particularly those of the hips and knees, and unfortunately many of us work seated desk jobs.
Some forms of exercise also decrease our flexibility. For example, running promotes tightness of the hamstrings and IT bands. Upper body strengthening exercises with weights or push-ups promotes shortening of the biceps and chest muscles.
Many common aches and pains are related to limited muscle flexibility. When muscles are tight, they limit the range of motion of the joints that they cross. This limited range of motion can lead to improper joint mechanics while walking or performing daily tasks, in addition to poor posture. Follow these strategies to improve your flexibility.
1. Assess Your Flexibility
Are you flexible? Are you tight? Do you have any idea? Take a couple of minutes and assess your own flexibility to determine your baseline starting point. Some people are naturally more flexible than others, and women are typically more flexible than men. Try to sit with your legs extended in front of you. Can you reach down and touch your toes? This is a test for hamstring flexibility in the back of your legs. For your upper body, try to make your opposite hands touch behind your back, near your shoulder blades. This is a great indication of upper body flexibility. Also, you can assess any areas that you are having discomfort. More than likely, in the area of discomfort, you will have associated muscle tightness.