If you’ve ever watched a ballet, been in a yoga class, or just looked around while warming up for a sporting event, it’s pretty obvious: some people are more flexible than others.
But what makes some people more flexible? How can you improve your flexibility? And when should day-to-day stiffness or joint pain make you think about calling an orthopedic doctor? Read on to learn more.
What Are the Factors That Contribute to Flexibility?
There are a number of different factors that may contribute to why some people are more flexible than others. Genetics, gender, work and exercise history, and other factors can contribute to a person’s flexibility. Let’s dive deeper into what makes a person flexible.
Age and Flexibility
Aging is a major factor when it comes to flexibility. As you age, your muscles and joints become stiffer and less flexible. Also, having an inactive lifestyle and not stretching regularly throughout your life can accelerate your inflexibility as you age. It is recommended to stay active, limber and healthy throughout your life.
Work History and Flexibility
If you’ve spent a majority of your life in an office job, sitting and leaning forward to look at your computer, your body will suffer in the long run. Sitting for long periods of time will cause your flexibility to gradually diminish. Jobs that require some amount of regular physical activity promote habits that help keep the body flexible.
Genetics and Flexibility
Some people are just more flexible than others! Even if people are more flexible because of genetics, do not underestimate the power of lifestyle habits. Stretching 10 to 15 minutes each day will make a huge difference in flexibility.
Exercise, Stretching, and Muscle Tension
Regular stretching, exercise, and athletic activity are the best ways to maintain flexibility and offset the joint and muscle stiffening effects of aging.
A tense muscle is a short muscle. Most stretching techniques aim to relax your muscles to relax before lengthening them. The muscles don’t actually get longer when you stretch, they in turn, stop contracting.
Are Women More Flexible Than Men?
Gender surprisingly plays a role in flexibility as well. In general, women are typically more naturally flexible than men. Part of this is because of the makeup of their connective tissues. Also, while it’s a generalization, women typically focus on activities that require more flexibility, such as yoga, dancing, pilates, etc.
Do Men Lose Flexibility with Age?
Most people – men and women – get less flexible as they age as their muscles, joints, and connective tissues get stiffer and less elastic. The best way to preserve flexibility despite the aging process is through regular exercise, a healthy diet, and an active lifestyle.
What Are the Benefits of Flexibility?
Staying flexible through stretching and exercise contributes to your overall health. It makes other physical activities easier and makes your body less prone to accidental injury. Some of the benefits of flexibility include:
- Increased blood flow to your muscles
- Improved range of motion
- A lowered risk of injury
- Overall better physical performance in sports and daily activities
How To Get More Flexible
- It’s best to stretch when your muscles are warm. This helps prevent pulling a muscle. Stretching also prevents soreness after an exercise.
- Know your body and don’t push yourself too hard. If you try to stretch deeper and feel a pain, then slowly ease out of your stretch.
- When your muscles are warm and stretched slowly, they will respond much better. So when you stretch, move with complete awareness of your body. Gently go deeper into your poses.
- Practice consistency. In order to experience progress in your flexibility, you must stretch regularly. You’ll be surprised how much stretching three times a week makes a difference.
- Sometimes holding a pose for only 5 breaths might not be enough. It’s okay to stay in your stretch for a few minutes.
- Our bodies are different. If you had a really great day of stretching yesterday, your muscles might not be up to the task today. It’s okay, be patient.
Best Stretches to Improve Flexibility
Hip Flexor Stretch
- Kneel on the floor with both of your knees bent and shins on the floor.
- Lunge your right leg forward so your right knee is bent at 90 degrees in front of you with your right foot on the floor directly under your knee.
- You can either place your hands on your front right leg for a beginner stretch or bend your left leg at the knee and hold it with your left arm.
- Lean your hips forward into your stretch, keeping your torso upright.
- Hold for 30 seconds or longer. Repeat on the next leg.
- Stretches: hip flexors, quads, hamstrings
- Sit on the floor with the soles of your feet together and your knees bent out to the sides.
- Grasp your feet with your hands, engage your core and slowly bend your body forward toward your feet.
- Go only as far as comfortable.
- Hold for 45 seconds to two minutes
- If you are uncomfortable, elevate your hips with a few blankets or a pillow then try again.
- Stretches: neck, back, glutes, hamstrings and thighs.
Reclining Pigeon Stretch:
- Lie with your back on the floor, knees bent, feet flat on the floor.
- Cross your right foot over your left thigh.
- Hook your arms around the left hamstring and lift your left foot a few inches while keeping your back and shoulders on the floor.
- Gently bring your right left in toward you until you feel a stretch.
- Hold for 45 seconds to two minutes.
- Lower your legs to the ground. Switch legs and repeat.
- Stretches: lower back, hips, glutes and hamstrings
- Stand with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent with your arms by your sides.
- Exhale as you bend forward from your hips, lowering your head towards the floor.
- Keep your head, neck, shoulders relaxed.
- Wrap your arms around your back legs and hold 45 seconds or more.
- If you’re not comfortable reaching that far, bend your knees more or place your hands on the ground.
- Stretches: neck, back, glutes, hamstrings and calves
Improve your flexibility at Alexander Orthopaedic Associates
At Alexander Orthopaedic Associates, we’re passionate about rejuvenating your joints. We urge all of our patients to take care of themselves, whether it’s light to intense exercise, stretching, or maintaining a healthy weight. If you’re having joint pain, please call us today.