Flexibility in the human body is directly tied to our range of motion which is the ease with which we position our bodies, especially when performing complicated movements. There are a number of benefits associated with being flexible, including:
- Lowering the risk of incurring injuries during times of physical stress,
- Lessening muscular pain,
- Improving mental well-being, and
- Contributing to increased levels of strength.
We do, however, go through periods of our lives where our flexibility may wanes, taking much of its benefits away from us. However, knowing what types of activities contribute to a more flexible body can ensure that you maintain yours. So let’s take a closer look.
The Structure of Joints and Connective Tissue
The very make-up of your body can have a lot to do with your levels of flexibility. This is particularly true where your joints and connective tissue is concerned.
Different joints give your body varying ranges of motion. Some of these joints, like the rotator cuff in your shoulder, enjoy a full range of movement, while others, like your knees, do not. Taking care of these joints, as well as connective tissue while encouraging them to use their range of movement on a regular basis, will help ensure that they stay flexible.
Muscle Mass and Bulk
Building body mass has its own rewards for athletes but when it comes to creating better flexibility, body strength can contribute or take away from it. Strength is good for supporting movements and therefore enhancing flexibility. However, too much of anything can be bad for you. The more you bulk out, the less flexible your body will become since it will be hindered by its own mass. Therefore, maintaining a flexible form requires finding a balance when building mass and retaining range of movement.
Age and Gender
Both age and gender play a role as well. Women, who carry their centre of gravity in their hips (as opposed to men who carry it in their chests), tend to find it easier to retain flexibility than men do. This is also contributed to by a lighter bone structure and less bodily bulk in most cases.
Age is also a determining factor, particularly in inactive people. The older we get the more rigid we get. That’s just a fact of life. Still, by performing exercises that help you maintain flexibility, you could ward off the process of losing it indefinitely.
As you get older, all of your old injuries tend to play a role in how your body functions or, rather, how it does not. Old muscular, connective tissue, joint and bone injuries may creep up later in life. Where flexibility is concerned, they can completely reduce your range of motion. In some cases, even with extensive physio, a full range of motion might be unattainable following an injury. This is just one more good reason to keep trying your best to avoid them.
There are a number of ways that people can build on their flexibility to increase their range of motion. Exercise approaches such as Yoga and Thai Chi are an excellent way to not only build flexibility but also to maintain it as you get older.
Performing a certain amount of strength training to better support your joints during movements is also a great way to maintain flexibility. Dynamic stretching routines, consistent warm-ups and cool-downs and giving yourself ample time to rest between workout-sessions will also ensure that you maintain your flexibility.
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