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Fiona Dean’s fitness column: being flexible is crucial to good overall health and remaining pain-free 

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POOR flexibility is a huge problem for people who are attempting to get back into shape or begin a new fitness routine because they often exercise without priming their muscles for the activity ahead.

If you don’t get blood flowing to your muscles, your body won’t move as well and you’ll risk tearing something. Stretching prepares muscles, joints and connective tissues for your workout as well as improving blood flow. Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight. Then, when you call on the muscles for activity, they are weak and unable to extend all the way. 

 When performed correctly, stretching can stabilize your body’s critical core of abdominal, lower back and gluteal muscles that are engaged in nearly every moment you make. Muscle imbalances are common and can lead to poor posture, so it is important that we have the right balance of strength and conditioning to reduce musculoskeletal pain and encourage proper alignment.  

Research has found that flexibility can improve your strength by increasing your range of motion and lengthening your muscles, therefore allowing you to lift more weights and produce more force. 

Not only do we experience a positive change in your physical ability but also your mental wellbeing. If you are experiencing stress, it is likely that you hold a lot of this tension in your muscles as a response to the external factors. Try to focus on stretching the muscles where this tension is likely to be greater – neck, shoulders and upper back. 

Participating in a regular stretch programme can also calm your mind and offer a sense of mindfulness and meditation.  

The most common forms of stretches are static and dynamic. Static stretches involve holding a stretch in a comfortable position for between 10 and 30 seconds. This form of stretching is most beneficial after you exercise. Dynamic stretches on the other hand are active movements that cause your muscles to stretch, but the stretch is not held in the end position. These stretches are usually done before exercise to get your muscles ready for movement. 

As with anything, stretching may not be safe if you have an existing injury. Only perform stretches recommended by your Doctor or consider speaking with a Physiotherapist to design a stretching 

protocol that fits your needs. If you have any physical limitations that prevent you from properly performing a stretching exercise, consult a professional for alternative exercises that can help increase your flexibility. 

Being flexible is crucial to good overall health and remaining pain-free, especially as you get older. What can you do? Well, stretch! 

Stretch in the mornings, at work, pre- and post-workout, when you get home, before bed – wherever you can fit it in. No one has ever said they feel bad from stretching! Give it a go. Be consistent with it – and this doesn’t mean once a week. For maximum results we should all be more proactive and undertake a little stretching every day. 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes… Whatever you have time for, but without a little daily commitment you will not feel or see the true benefits. 

 Fi – TEAMFITNESS 

The Fifth Dimension 

www.teamfi.co.uk 

@fionalouisedean 

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