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Elderly couple doing their stretches in the park

Stretching and flexibility

The single most asked question I get about my classes is: Does it include stretching. When I say “yes”, there is a sigh of relief from the other end, with a “yeah, I am becoming so inflexible”.

The sad truth is that as we age, no matter what we do, our connective tissues will stiffen and our muscles will shorten. The reason most people lose flexibility as they age is that they have relied on the elasticity of their tissues.

Based on your day to day activities, weather sitting, slowly walking or exercising incorrectly, your nervous system has picked it’s favorite length for your muscles and wants to keep it that way. If you suddenly start to pull on these muscles, your stretch reflex kicks in to keep your muscles where they are at.

The most important aspect of flexibility is strength. There is no flexibility without strength to back it up! You body cannot go into a range that it cannot control! When your nervous system knows you cannot control a certain range of movement, it will not allow you to go into that range. So, as you move less and less, your muscles also weaken. If you are not willing to strengthen your muscles as well, don’t bother stretching. You won’t increase flexibility, just create looseness of your joints.

To override the stretch reflex and tell the brain it is safe to stretch, you must start conservatively , stay in your comfort zone range and HOLD! Just hold-30 sec to 2 minutes is good! If you increase your stretch too quickly, your brain tells your muscles to actually TIGHTEN- the opposite of Whatwhat you are trying to do!