Flexibility refers to the ability of your joints to move through a full range of motion. How flexible you are in a particular joint is connected to the muscle length that attaches to that joint and how far that muscle will stretch. Having flexibility in your muscles allows for greater movement around joints. The shorter and less flexible the muscle, the tighter the joint.
Increased flexibility reduces your risk for injuries or sprains when you are physically active. Being regularly active is essential if you want to promote long term healthy blood pressure levels or want to lower high blood pressure.
As another plus, developing your flexibility keeps muscles relaxed and reduces tension that can result in headaches and back pains.
Stretching after your workout, when your muscles are warm, is a good way to increase your flexibility and help protect yourself from injury.
How Flexible Are You?
Here are three simple tests to gauge your current flexibility level:
1. Lower Body Flexibility
- Sit on a chair with your back straight.
- Keep one foot on the floor and raise the other leg to be parallel to the floor.
- If you can raise your leg to thigh height without shift position or raising your other foot you have a decent range of motion in your lower body.
2. Upper Body Flexibility
- Reach your right hand over your shoulder and behind your back, stretching down to your waist.
- Place your left hand behind your back and reach toward your neck trying to touch or overlap fingers with your hands.
- If you can touch/overlap fingers you have a decent level of upper body flexibility.
3. Overall Flexibility
- Sit on the floor with legs stretched out in front of you.
- Place your feet against a solid box.
- Lean forward and see how many inches you can reach without bending your knees.
8-9 inches past box - excellent
5-8 inches past box - very good
1-5 inches past box - fair
Cannot reach box - poor
If you do not fair well on the above flexibility tests complete regular flexibility exercises for the next week and the re-test yourself. You should see improvements fairly quickly. And remember when it comes to flexibility - if you don’t use it, you lose it.
Lisa Nelson RD, a registered dietitian since 1999, provides clients step-by-step guidance to lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure, so they can live life and enjoy their family for years to come. Because her own health is the foundation of her expertise, you can trust that Lisa will make it truly possible for you to see dramatic changes in your health, without unrealistic fads or impossibly difficult techniques. She can be found on Twitter @lisanelsonrd and Facebook at hearthealthmadeeasy.