Flexibility is the ability to move a joint through its complete range of motion and is important in carrying out daily activities and in athletic performance. Maintaining flexibility of all joints produce efficient movement and reduces risk of injury. It can be improved in all age groups by regularly engaging in exercises targeting different joints. Joint capsule stiffness, muscle viscosity, ligament and tendon compliance all affect flexibility. Therefore, adequate warm-up and proper stretching is essential in optimizing joint range of motion. Chronic conditions such as lower back pain may arise if an individual has poor lower back and hip flexibility, in conjunction with weak abdominal muscles.
Flexibility exercises are most effective through warm-up exercises or passively through moist heat packs or hot baths to increase the muscle temperature. An effective warm-up is typically 5 to 10 minutes long, but may be longer for older adults or individuals with health conditions. Watch the video below, led by InSync Physio’s Claire McDonald, on how to do a comprehensive warm-up targeting all of the major muscles:
Frequency: more than 2-3 days per week with daily being the most effective
Intensity: stretch to the point of feeling tightness or slight discomfort
Time: hold a static stretch for approximately 10-30 seconds, hold for 30-60 seconds for older individuals
Type: static (active or passive), dynamic, ballistic, or proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation
Volume: a total of 60 seconds of stretching time for each flexibility exercise is recommended
Pattern: repetition of each exercise 2-4 times
Stretching for Beginners:
Yoga blocks can be very helpful for individuals building their flexibility by reinforcing balance and proper alignment. Use a yoga block for the following positions:
1) Forward Folds for Tight Hamstrings:
Place a yoga block flat on the ground and sit directly on top with legs extended forward and feet flexed.
2) Hip Openers for Tight Hips:
Sit on the ground and bring your feet together, then place a yoga block under each knee for support. Remember to sit up straight.
3) Standing Thigh Holds for Posture:
Standing tall, place a yoga block between the thighs to tilt the pelvis downwards and realign the spine.
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