The ability to bend, twist, and move freely increases a person’s balance, agility, and strength. If you’re healthy and do not have a pre-existing, movement-limiting condition, you can improve your flexibility no matter how old you are.
The goal is to be more flexible today than you were yesterday.
You may hear the term “Range of Motion” or ROM, which is the system orthopedic specialists use to determine a person’s flexibility level. To measure the degree of movement, your health care provider will use a protractor-like instrument called a goniometer or inclinometer.
As you bend and flex your joints, your orthopedic practitioner will measure the angle of your extension and flexion. Adduction is measured when you lift your leg to the inside; swing it to the outside, and your level of abduction can be recorded. Supination and pronation are measured as you rotate your ankles, wrists, or shoulders.
There is a “normal” range of motion for each joint in your body.
But every person is unique. The goal of flexibility is not to arrive at a number, but to achieve the best flexibility for your body.
Four ways to increase flexibility
You can improve overall flexibility with a well-rounded exercise plan, or you can work with a Bone & Joint sports medicine specialist, athletic trainer, or physical therapist. They can create a customized program to help you become more flexible in a specific area to enhance performance or recover from an injury.
1. Choose an exercise program that focuses on being strong and flexible. There’s a reason that big, burly, linebackers add Yoga to their training routine. It helps them become more flexible and balanced, which leads to speed and strength on the field.
Yoga is just one type of exercise that builds flexibility and strength. Other programs that accomplish the same goal with different techniques are Pilates, Tai Chi, and Barre exercises. But be aware, these seemingly slow-moving exercises are not easy. You’ll sweat—and you may fall over a time or two.
Adding flexibility training to your strength-training or cardio routine can help you avoid injury, reduce stress, improve performance, and gain a better sense of well-being. All these benefits will help you stay strong and flexible well into your golden years.
2. Take time for massage or foam rolling. Massaging the muscles surrounding your joints, especially if they are tight after exercise, loosens the muscle. Foam rolling acts the same way as a deep tissue massage. Exercise causes tiny tears in the fibers of the muscles to build strength. Massage can help mend these tears and speed recovery after a workout.
3. Make stretching part of your daily routine. Stretching for just 10 minutes a day can lead to increased flexibility. You’ll be able to see the results of the minor changes you make each day in three to six months. When your muscles are tight, massage combined with gentle stretching can help you release the stress and feel better faster.
- Dynamic stretches before exercise can warm up your muscles and improve your performance during activity. Use care to move smoothly in and out of your maximum range of motion to avoid injury.
- Static stretches after exercise can help lengthen your muscles and connective tissues. During a static stretch, hold the position for 10 to 30 seconds without bouncing or holding your breath. Take care to not overstretch or stretch to the point of pain, which can cause injury.
While you stretch, try to keep the rest of your body relaxed and focus on breathing. These techniques help you work with your body instead of against it.
4. Feed your body with healthy foods. Fill your plate with low-inflammatory foods like leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, and lean protein. Some dieticians suggest the combination of protein and Vitamin C after a workout helps the body recover faster.
After an illness, an injury, or a period of inactivity, you may notice it’s harder to move. If you’re recovering from an orthopedic injury, have arthritis, or just want to make sure you have the best flexibility program to meet your goals, call Bone & Joint.
The orthopedic, sports medicine, and physical therapy specialists at Bone & Joint are range-of-motion experts. They can assess your condition, track your current level of flexibility, and create a program for you to improve your movement, so you can move as freely as possible. Contact Bone & Joint for an appointment.