Building muscle and burning fat are both essential factors to creating a fit, healthy body, but flexibility is just as important. To maintain proper fitness, take part in different flexibility activities that help to stretch and lengthen your muscles.
This not only creates a more slender, elongated body, but also increases range of motion, improves posture and relieves stress both physically and mentally, according to the American Council of Exercise (ACE) Fitness.
Get in Position
Yoga involves using different poses or positions to help stretch the different muscle groups in your body. There are various types of yoga you can practice, but one of the main goals of all these types is to improve overall flexibility, says Harvard Health.
There are different postures for all the muscles, tendons and joints in your body — you don't have to have a lot of flexibility to begin a yoga practice.
Pilates for Flexible Muscles
Pilates is one of the most best exercises for gaining the most flexibility benefits. It allows you to train several muscle groups at the same time and is relatively low impact, says Mayo Clinic, so it's safe for anyone to do. It helps you build long, lean muscles and flexibility, and it allows you to create an evenly conditioned body, which helps prevent injury. With a wide range of flexibility exercises of varying difficulty, you can choose to make your workout as low- or high-intensity as you want.
Tai Chi for Easy Movement
Tai chi is a martial art that uses slow, controlled movements to help improve flexibility and promote stress relief. It is known for helping with a multitude of health issues including anxiety, fatigue, joint stiffness, muscle tension and stress, according to the Better Health Channel. You can learn it from books or videos so you can do it in the comfort of your home, or sign up for a class to learn tai chi in a group setting. It's gentle and low-impact, making it ideal for all ages and levels of fitness.
Aerobics in the Water
Water aerobics is a form of cardio activity that is not only effective for improving flexibility, but also a ton of fun. Like tai chi, it is suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels. You get an effective workout without putting as much stress on your joints as with other types of exercise, says Swimming.org. Because being in water gives a feeling of weightlessness and offers gentle resistance, this kind of exercise is often prescribed by doctors for pregnant women and people with joint or bone problems.
Dance the Stiffness Away
Dancers are always very flexible, and there's a good reason for it. Dancers spend a lot of time stretching, then a lot of time dancing — both activities that improve flexibility. Dancing helps loosen and lengthen your muscles, while it also builds strength and endurance. Stretching prior to your workout is mandatory to loosen your muscles and prevent stiffness or tightness during your workout.
The Importance of Stretching
Stretching before and after your cardio and strength-training workouts is important and helps increase your flexibility even more. There are two main types of stretching: dynamic and static stretching. Dynamic stretching involves motion, whereas static stretches require you to hold a position. Holding a static stretch for 30 seconds is ideal, long enough to work but not so long that you are risking injury to your body. Stick to dynamic stretching pre-workout and static stretching post-workout for best results, advises ACE Fitness .
- Better Health Channel: "Tai Chi - Health Benefits"
- MayoClinic.org: "Pilates for Beginners: Explore the Core"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "The Physical Benefits of Yoga"
- Swimming.org: "Discover the Fitness Benefits of Aqua Aerobics"
- ACE Fitness: "10 Reasons Why You Should Be Stretching"
- ACE Fitness: "The Common Mistakes People Make When Warming Up"