How to improve flexibility

Improving flexibility is a goal for many athletes, whether they’re daily exercise devotees or weekend warriors. Taking steps to improve and maintain flexibility has numerous benefits that can pay dividends for athletes of all ages.

According to the Harvard Medical School, well-stretched muscles more easily reach their full range of motion. That benefits athletes by improving their performance, and it can also improve daily life for non-athletes by making it easier to reach, bend or stoop to perform everyday tasks.


As beneficial as being physically flexible can be, many people, no matter how hard they try, struggle to improve or maintain their flexibility. Fortunately, there are some ways that devoted men and women can improve their flexibility and enjoy all of the benefits that increased flexibility provides.

• Choose the right activities. Harvard Medical School notes that activities that lengthen and stretch muscles can help active men and women reduce their risks for injury while potentially preventing back pain and issues that may affect their balance. When done correctly, yoga can improve balance and flexibility. In addition, numerous studies have linked yoga to additional health benefits, such as stress reduction, that can make people less tense, thereby improving their flexibility.

• Drink more water. Drinking water helps to prevent tightness and muscle cramps. In fact, tightness or muscle cramps in the large muscles of the leg may be indicative of the early stages of dehydration. Drinking plain water is the most effective way to stay and remain hydrated. Don’t count coffee, tea or sports drinks as water, as such beverages many contain caffeine. Caffeine is a diuretic, and while diuretics cause the increased passing of urine, they also decrease the amount of water that is absorbed by the kidneys, potentially contributing to dehydration. Drink plenty of water before, during and after workouts.

• Start over after an extended break. If it’s been awhile since you last worked out, resist the temptation to push yourself when returning to the gym. Depending on how long it’s been since you last exercised, you may need to start back at square one, which means reducing the amount of weight you lift and decreasing the resistance during cardiovascular exercises. Putting too much strain on muscles that have been sedentary for an extended period of time can cause aches, pains and even injury. Muscle tightness also may develop if you go too hard too quickly, greatly reducing flexibility.

• Get up and go. Poor flexibility may be a byproduct of your lifestyle. Men and women who live sedentary lifestyles are less likely to enjoy the full range of motion from their muscles than those people who are more active. Get off the couch when spending time at home, and if you work in an office, take routine breaks to stand up and walk around. Poor flexibility can be painful and inconvenient, but there are many ways for men and women to improve their flexibility and, as a result, their quality of life.

Strength training important to women's health

Women’s bodies are built different from men’s to accommodate the changes of pregnancy and childbirth. Although women may store fat differently and have less muscle mass than men, it’s still important that women include weight resistance training in their exercise routines.

Woman Training

Lifting weights is an important part of staying fit. Yet many women do not pick up weights out of fear of bulking up and gaining weight. In a 2011 opinion poll conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, less than 20 percent of women said they accomplished the CDC’s recommended 2.5 hours of aerobic exercise and two periods of strength training each week.

Contrary to popular belief, women who weight train will not turn into the bulking behemoths of competitive weight lifting. The Women’s Heart Foundation says that high levels of estrogen make it quite difficult for women to become overly muscular. When they strength train, rather, women’s muscles will improve in tone, endurance and strength instead of size.

Resistance training provides an efficient way to build strength and burn calories. A study from researchers at the University of New Mexico found that the body will take between 15 minutes and 48 hours after exercise to return to a resting state. That means that a person continues to burn calories after exercising, a phenomenon known as “after-burn” or “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption.” The more intense the workout, the longer the after-burn may last.

Studies performed at the Quincy, Mass., South Shore YMCA found that the average woman who strength trains two to three times a week for two months will gain nearly two pounds of muscle, but lose 3.5 pounds of fat. With that lean muscle addition, resting metabolism increases and more calories can be burned each day.

The following are some additional benefits of strength training:

• Reduces risk of heart disease by lowering LDL cholesterol and increasing HDL cholesterol.

• Builds stronger muscles and connective tissues that can increase joint stability.

• Improves the way the body processes sugar, which can help reduce the risk of diabetes.

• Reduces rates of depression. A Harvard University study found that 10 weeks of strength training reduced clinical depression symptoms more successfully than standard counseling. Women who strength train commonly report feeling more confident and capable. Women with no strength training experience can consult with a personal trainer who can teach them proper strength training form. This ensures that the exercises are being done efficiently while reducing the women’s risk of injury. Qualified trainers also can keep people moving toward fitness goals.  LS178211 SOCIAL MEDIA TEXT: Women’s bodies are built different from men’s to accommodate the changes of pregnancy and childbirth. Although women may store fat differently and have less muscle mass than men, it’s still important that women include weight resistance training in their exercise routines.

Unique ways to exercise at home

Even the most devoted exercise enthusiasts sometimes encounter obstacles that make it hard for them to squeeze in their regular workouts. Weather can affect outdoor exercise enthusiasts, while busy work schedules can make it difficult to get to the gym. When unforeseen consequences compromise your ability to stick to your normal workout routine, working out at home might be your only option. The following are a handful of ways to exercise at home when leaving the house is out of the question.

  • Hit the stairs. Many gyms have StairMaster® products that can be used for high-intensity interval training, calorie-burning workouts and/or improving flexibility. While you might not be able to duplicate the effects of such equipment at home, you can take to the stairs in your home, walking up and down the staircases in your home to squeeze in some aerobic exercise. If you want to increase the intensity level, fill a backpack with some weights. •

  • Dust off the jump rope. Jumping rope is an inexpensive, effective way to burn calories and improve muscle tone. When confined to your home, jump rope in the garage or, weather permitting, in the driveway or backyard. Jumping rope is great cardiovascular exercise and can strengthen the upper and lower body. Men and women who have histories of joint paint, including problems with their knees, ankles and/or hips, should consult with their physicians before adding jumping rope to their exercise routines.

  • Embrace crunch time. Crunches are another effective way to exercise at home. Crunches don’t require a lot of space, making them great exercises for apartment dwellers or homeowners whose homes are less than conducive to exercise. Crunches strengthen the core and can help establish muscle tone. Crunches also burn calories. Be sure to adhere to proper form when performing crunches, as the wrong form can increase your risk of injury.

  • Become a squatter. You can become a squatter without breaking any laws. Unlike squatters who set up residence in a home without the permission of the homeowners, men and women who squat in their own homes are performing exercises that benefit various parts of their bodies. Squats can be performed with or without weights, and either option can help tone your legs and buttocks, strengthen your core and improve your flexibility. Be sure to use proper form when performing squats. If you have never done squats in the past, first get the form down without using weights, only moving on to squatting with weights after you have mastered the form and if you feel like you want to.

The confines of a home may not always be conducive to exercise. But fitness enthusiasts who find themselves unable to get out of the house can still get a workout in.