Our flexibility (or lack thereof) isn't always that obvious. Afterall, we usually spend most of the day in one of three positions — laying down, standing up, or sitting. It's only when we move into any other position that our stiffness, horrible range of motion, and creaky joints become painfully obvious. And it's in these moments we realize how important it is to remain flexible.
It may not feel like that big of a deal when you're young. I mean, we aren't all circus performers or ballerinas, so who cares? But flexibility is where it's at if you want to stay feeling healthy and pain-free as you get older.
That's because, as Julie Wilcox pointed out on MindBodyGreen.com, flexibility is one of the first things to go as you age. A lack of it is what makes getting out of bed so difficult, and it's what causes that mega-struggle to get off the couch after sitting for too long. Stiffness can also lead to injuries, muscle strains, and backaches that we associate with old age. So do yourself a favor, and start a stretching regimen ASAP.
You'll stay feeling younger for longer. And you'll be improving your health as you go. Because flexibility is so much more than doing splits, or impressing everyone with backbends. It's about staying healthy, preventing injury (now, and later on in life), and feeling more comfortable all day long. With that in mind, here are a few easy ways to stretch it out, improve flexibility, and feel good for years to come.
1. Roll A Tennis Ball Under Your Foot
This stretch is super easy, and particularly amazing if you test out your total lack of flexibility beforehand. Go ahead and bend forward at the waist and try to touch the floor. (If you're like me, your hands probably dangle somewhere mid-leg in a desperate attempt to reach the ground.) Now, grab a tennis ball and place it under your foot. Roll the ball around, massaging the arch of your foot and your heel, for about two minutes. Now bend forward again. Were you able to touch the floor, or at least get a little bit closer? Amazing, right?
This works so well because, believe it or not, massaging the muscles of the feet helps loosen up the entire body. According to MyFiveMinuteYoga.com, "When you massage the soles of your feet, you loosen the starting point of a network of connective tissue that runs all the way up your back body to the crown of your head. So it stands to reason that massaging your feet can loosen your hamstrings." Do this little trick whenever your body feels tense, especially while sitting at work, after a long walk, or once you take off uncomfortable shoes.
2. Do Some Yoga At Your Desk
If you sit in the same position all day at work, then your neck, back, and legs are probably going to stiff from lack of movement. It's really no wonder, and yet you still hobble home from work, commenting the whole way about "what an old lady" you've become.
Luckily, it doesn't have to be this way. In fact, it's possible to improve flexibility right there at your desk with a few easy stretches. I'm going to call it "desk yoga," and all it involves are a few simple twists and poses that are done from a seated position. As noted in an article on Health, "There are effective moves you can do right at your desk, ones that will help you get a mental breather and make sure your neck, back, arms, hips and wrists remain in good working order." Here's a list of desk yoga poses, such as the seated twist, that can keep you feeling loose and limber all day long.
3. Stretch Your Calves On The Stairs
Just like the desk yoga poses, there are little things you can do throughout the day that don't feel like that big of a deal, but will help improve flexibility immensely. One of these is calf stretches, which can be done easily on a flight of stairs, or street curb.
All you have to do is stand on the stairs with your heels hanging over the edge and the balls of your feet supporting your weight, explained Keith Strange on Livestrong.com. Then, slowly allow your heels to drop toward the ground until you feel a stretch in your calves. Once you're legs all stretched out, you can go about your day, feelin' fine.
4. Focus On Your Posture
Slumping and slouching never did anyone any favors. But did you know that it can also make flexibility worse? That's because, over time, poor posture can take a toll on your spine, shoulders, hips, and knees. It can then cause a cascade of structural flaws that result in acute problems, such as joint pain throughout the body, reduced flexibility, and compromised muscles, according to Bill Hartman, P.T., C.S.C.S., noted on MensHealth.com. So stand up straight, and put those shoulders back.
5. Get A Deep Tissue Massage
If you're in pain, or have a lot of kinks and knots in your back, then gaining flexibility is going to be that much harder. So you'll want to go ahead and mosey on over to the nearest spa for a massage ASAP. (Good excuse, right?)
Ask for the deep tissue kind to really get in there and work out any problems. According to an article on WikiHow.com, "Deep muscle techniques like Neuromuscular, Rolfing, and Myofascial Release are designed to get rid of problems in your body that can reduce flexibility ... A standard massage can help as well, since it will improve circulation to the muscles, allowing them to repair any damage." Enjoy, and remember that it's all for the sake of your flexibility.
6. Start A Daily 10 Minute Routine
OK, so you're all massaged, and you've been stretching a bit at work. Now's the time to start an easy daily routine. Nothing rigorous or time-consuming — just a daily ten minute thing to really get those muscles limbered up. That's really all it takes, according to Emma Tiernon on TheLala.com, to feel young and lithe again.
"Even small, daily stretches can slow [the aging] process down. You’ll feel better because your muscles will be at ease and your range of motion will increase," she said. Try this list of easy stretches that can be done while the shower is warming up in the morning, or while watching TV at night. Easy as that.
7. Take It Slow
I know, you probably want to be ballerina-ready in just a day or two. But sadly, the muscles don't work like that. If you force your body into positions that hurt, or hold painful poses for too long, you're only going to end up with an injury. As noted on GMB Fitness, "The difficulty in trying to get flexible as quickly as possible is that most people need to tone it down. You don’t improve stretching tolerance by going so far with a stretch that it hurts. In fact, that would likely impede your progress." So take it slow and don't push yourself, but do stick to stretching as often as possible.
Keep up with a few daily stretches, and your older self with thank you.
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