It's better to bend than break

MICHELLE BRIDGES
Last updated 10:58 16/07/2012
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STRETCH IT OUT: Flexibility goes hand in hand with mobility.

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In a previous life, I taught group fitness classes. Quite a lot of them. Not just the modern offerings such as Body Pump and Body Attack but even the old aerobic classes like New Body and Hi-Energy.

Oh yes, I've grapevined with the best of them.

One of the benefits of teaching three, four or five classes a day - trust me, there aren't many - is that at the end of class we'd stretch and cool down. Which amounts to four or five stretch sessions a day.

Fast forward to Crazy Town 2012 and I find myself bolting out of the gym after a hard training session with the only thing having been stretched being my patience when I'm stuck in traffic rushing to my next appointment. Which, I imagine, is something many time-poor gals (and guys) can relate to.

But it's a trap: not only do we stretch less as we get busier, our bodies also become less flexible naturally. And if we're not careful, we'll find ourselves down on all fours every time we need to pick something up off the floor, resulting in a loss of dignity on top of the lost flexibility.

Flexibility is particularly important when we start to get older. (Whatever happened to those touch-ya-toes days when we could sit cross-legged for hours watching DVDs or put one foot behind our heads just to show off?) This is because flexibility and mobility are inextricably linked and, as your nan will tell you, life isn't as much fun when you can't get around like you used to.

Don't get me wrong - flexibility and mobility aren't the same thing. Flexibility describes the ability of your joints and muscles to go through a range of movement, and mobility describes your muscles actively taking them through that range of movement. But the outcome is the same - it's about your ability to get around and do stuff.

Regular stretching is, of course, the key. It doesn't take long for your range of movement to reduce, particularly if you have a sedentary lifestyle. So make yourself put just five minutes aside to stretch at the end of each workout, walk, swim or whatever.

Don't forget that as we age, the collagen structure changes in our connective tissues - it cross-links and gets in a mess generally, shortening and reducing our range of movement in the process, so get stretching into your routine for the long term.

MICHELLE'S TIP
Put together a stretch routine that covers your whole body and use it after every workout. Or take a yoga class once or twice a week, then practise what you've learnt at home.

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