|Fitness Plan-Stretching Exercises
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|Flexibility, sometimes called the forgotten fitness factor, refers to the range of motion in joints. Flexibility depends on the condition of muscles that control a joint. If muscles are too taut, the joint fails to move through its full range. As people age, they tend to lose range of motion. Inactivity can contribute too. If you're out of shape and inactive, you often may feel stiff or have trouble moving, bending, and straightening.
Exercises to improve flexibility can help you bend, turn, and reach more easily. They also improve agility and posture, as well as protect against injury from sudden movements. If you're flexible, you may be saved from a backache the next time you reach quickly to pick up something from the floor.
Stretching exercises are used to lengthen muscles and improve flexibility. Experts usually recommend static stretching, a method that involves slow, continuous stretches held in position. Here are some guidelines:
- Stretch slowly and gradually. Stretch until you feel tension in the muscle. Don't bounce. Bouncing can cause small tears and muscle soreness.
- Don't stretch to the point of feeling pain, a signal that you've pushed too far or are doing something incorrectly and possibly injuring muscle tissue.
- Hold your stretch for at least 15 seconds. Holding for 30 seconds is even better. Breathe naturally as you stretch: Don't hold your breath. Repeat the same stretch one or more times.
- Use stretching as part of your warm up. Stretched muscles, tendons and ligaments are more flexible and stretch more easily.
Try to find time throughout the day to stretch. For more comprehensive stretching, plan a longer routine that targets major muscles after your aerobic workouts. That's when muscles are warmed up and pliable, which will make stretching most effective. If you do stretches before activities, make sure to warm up first for five to 10 minutes with walking or easy stationary cycling.
The American College of Sports Medicine advises stretching at least three times a week. Each stretch should be done for 10â€“30 seconds, to a position of mild discomfort, and repeated three to five times.
Several forms of exercise lead joints through an extended range of motion and can improve flexibility, too. These include yoga, tai chi, and many aquatic exercises.
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