Sunday, 10 February 2013

Flexibility and its benefits

Flexibility and its benefits
By Jason Ford.

What is Flexibility?

Flexibility is the capacity of a joint to move through its full range of motion. Being able to bend, stretch, twist and turn through a full range of movement is very important in everyday life. Flexibility is the range of movement available to a joint or group of joints.

There are direct and indirect methods of measuring flexibility. The indirect method usually involves the linear measurement of distances between segments or from an external object. Such a test for instance, would include the Sit and Reach assessment. The Sit and Reach test gives a good  indication of the overall flexibility as it involves the calves, hamstrings,  pelvis, lower back, shoulders and arms.

Direct methods measure angular displacements between adjacent segments or from an external reference. Such an assessment would measure ranges of motion using a goniometer.

The Sit and Reach Test

The sit and reach test, although requiring a combined joint action movement, gives an overall approximation of flexibility around the hip joint. However, it fails to differentiate between lumbar-sacral flexibility, hamstring muscle length, neural tension, anthropometric measures of arm, trunk and limb length and calf flexibility. A poor Sit & Reach Test result should be followed by a lumbar-sacral spine flexion and true hamstring (straight leg raise) flexibility test.

Sit and Reach Testing Procedure:

Advise the subject to limber up gently and loosen the limbs by mild stretching exercise for a minute or two. The subject is to sit on the floor and place both feet (without shoes) against the vertical surface of the `sit and reach’ board.
With knees and elbows locked, the subject places one hand on the other, palms down, fingers out stretched with fingers overlapping. The subject with knees straight, slowly and smoothly flexes the trunk and hips and stretches forward as far as possible, sliding both the hands along the scale down the board as far as is comfortable without undue pain or exertion. Ensure one hand does not lead.
Jerking and bobbing forward is not permitted; it must be an even movement, and the extreme reach position must be held for two to three seconds, then relax.
Record the distance reached. The best score of three trials is recorded with a short rest being allowed between trials.

So what are the Benefits of Flexibility?

Flexibility is a joint’s ability to move through a full range of motion. Flexibility training (stretching) is not about becoming a world class gymnast–it’s about balancing the muscle groups you use or overuse during exercise and other activities, or from bad posture. The benefits of good flexibility include:

  • Improved performance;
  • Decreased injury risk;
  • Reduced muscle soreness;
  • Improved posture;
  • Reduced risk of low back pain;
  • Increased blood and nutrients to tissues;
  • Improved muscle coordination;
  • Enhanced enjoyment of physical activities.

As you can see, flexibility is one of the key components of a balanced lifestyle–it should be a part of your exercise routine. Without flexibility training, you are missing an important part of overall health. Flexibility training provides many important benefits that cannot be achieved by any other form of exercise.

Written by
Jason Ford MSMA, PT. NASM

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