Flexibility: A Key to Good Health

Written in collaboration with Mike Deboever of Reebok CrossFit Studio

Nothing is easier for kids than doing squats, climbing trees or bending over backwards: flexibility just comes to them naturally and effortlessly. But the situation for adults is quite something else. Most of us spend too much time seated at our desks, in our cars or at the table, not to mention splayed out on the sofa. This means our muscles get accustomed to being used less often—they shorten, and as a result, we lose a lot of amplitude of movement.

You don’t see yourself becoming an Olympic gymnast or master yogi, so you don’t think you need to be flexible? Quite the contrary! Your flexibility is directly related to your physical fitness and your general health. And if you don’t play any sport that requires you to be flexible, then you’ll need to work on it in particular.

Why? Because shorter, tighter muscles cause pain in the back and shoulders, plus they interfere with your sleep—which is key to keeping in shape and maintaining good health. What’s more, lack of flexibility increases the risk of injuring yourself while carrying out everyday activities or practicing a sport. One little fall may turn out to have more serious consequences.

With flexibility, however, comes a much simpler and more pleasant life: you’ll move better, have more energy and sleep soundly—plus you’ll be less stressed!

How to get more flexible

Getting back your flexibility is not rocket science, and it requires a fairly small investment in time and energy. The challenge, however, may not be as simple as it seems, as it requires making a few key lifestyle changes.

Stretch after working out

At the end of a physical workout put aside at least ten minutes to stretch properly. Do dynamic and static movements, and make the hamstrings and glutes a priority: taken together, they’re the back’s safety belt! The ideal time for stretching is when the muscles are cold, so don’t hesitate to take your shower between the workout and your stretching. Or if you work out in the morning, stretch at the office a little later.

Stretch at the office

You probably spend several hours a day seated at your desk, which is terrible for your flexibility if you don’t find a way to move about. Take advantage of this opportunity to exercise your static flexibility: do upper-body stretches, for example, while you read your emails, followed by leg stretches when you answer them!

Stretch when you get home from work

Many people get in the door at the end of the day full of stress, with their body all knotted up from the day of work and traffic. This is the perfect time to integrate yoga or stretching into your evenings and make a clear break from the day. You can even turn off the lights and light candles—why not make it as relaxing as possible!

It may not be easy to pick up the habit of integrating stretching into your day-to-day life, but it pays off. You’ll see positive changes quickly in your state of health and state of mind: you’ll sleep easier, find it easier to concentrate and act more effectively, plus you’ll feel more comfortable while seated at your desk. And above all, you’ll have more fun playing with the kids or simply breezing through your daily activities.