Aerobic exercise is a popular way to increase cardiovascular endurance and lose fat. To maintain lean muscle tissue, and to build strength, people weight train. These are the most important components of any fitness program. There are actually three key elements. Unfortunately, flexibility training is often overlooked.
Flexibility training has many benefits:
- This allows for greater mobility and better posture
- Relaxation of the mind and body.
- Soreness and muscle tension are released
- This reduces the chance of injury
Some people are more flexible than others. Flexibility can be attributed to genetics, gender and age. People lose flexibility as they age, mostly due to inactivity but also because of the aging process. You are less likely to be flexible if you are less active. Regular training will increase flexibility, just like cardiovascular endurance and muscle strength.
Stretch for Success
Warm up before you start stretching. Cold muscles can increase the risk of injury. Start with a low-intensity, simple warm-up such as walking slowly and swinging your arms in a large circle. Warm up for at least 5-10 minutes before you start stretching. For anyone starting an exercise program, it is recommended to do gentle static stretches after exercising and dynamic stretches before you start.
Perform a static stretch
- Slowly exhale and take a deep, long breath. Then stretch the muscle until it reaches a point of tension.
- You can hold the stretch for up to 15-30 seconds. Then, you can relax and continue the stretch two to four times more.
- The more complex dynamic stretches should be taught by a qualified professional.
- These are the most common stretching errors:
- Do not bounce on a stretch. It is easier to hold a stretch and it is safer.
- Do not stretch a muscle that has not been warmed up.
- Do not strain or push muscles too hard. If you feel the stretch is causing pain, relax.
- During the stretch, don’t hold your breath. Continue to breathe normally.
Fitting Stretching into a Compact Schedule
Many people are limited by time and don’t have the time to stretch. Many people complain that they don’t have the time or energy to stretch. Others rush out of fitness classes before cool-down exercises are over.
Flexibility training should be done at least three times per week for 30 minutes. Even five minutes of stretching after an exercise session can help reduce muscle soreness. All aerobic activity should be followed up with at least five minutes of stretching.
These are some ways to fit stretching into a busy schedule.
- You don’t need to warm up before you start stretching. Instead, take a quick shower or soak in the hot tub and do some stretches right after. Hot water raises the body’s temperature and makes it more open to stretching.
- Before you get out of bed, do a few simple stretches. You can wake yourself up by doing a few full body stretches. This will help you clear your mind and jump-start your day.
- You can take tai-chi or yoga to stretch. Scheduling classes can help you stick to a regular stretching program.
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