Stretching is important to reduce post workout soreness. But there are other reasons you should also opt for stretching and some reasons why you shouldn’t rely on it for specific reasons. There is some confusion that can come with the differences between mobility and flexibility and whether it is better to have more of one than the other within your joints.

Today, Annabel and the Longevity Exercise Physiology teams at Drummoyne, EdgecliffMarrickvilleBella VistaRandwick, PymbleBalmain, Neutral Bay, Coburg – Melbourne, and Barrie, Ontario – Canada  are going to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of stretching and the differences that can come with being more mobile or flexible and how this can impact your training.

What is the difference between mobility and flexibility?

Mobility is the ability of your joints and muscles to move through a full range of motion ACTIVELY with control. You can think of it as moving your muscles with no assistance from other external factors such as gravity or your hands. Flexibility is the ability of your muscles to move through a range of motion freely but PASSIVELY. This means that you’re getting assistance from external factors to facilitate the movement towards the range of motion. Normally, the more mobile your joints are, the more flexible your muscles will be. However, this is not always the case, as you can be very flexible but not very mobile, and may not be able to reach certain positions (“Benefits of flexibility exercises – Harvard Health”, 2015).

Being able to complete stretching during your exercise sessions, does not actually lengthen your muscles. Studies have shown that it relaxes them and increases your tolerance in that specific position. When you stretch a muscle, you are actually lengthening the tendon and fascia (the connective tissue surrounding the muscle). Therefore, stretching is so crucial for improving mobility and flexibility. It helps to loosen up the connective tissue, which can become tight and restricted over time. While static stretching improves flexibility, 2018 research shows that Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) provides a higher range of motion (ROM) (Capritto, 2020).

 

“The more mobile your joints are, the more flexible your muscles will be, but you can be very flexible but not very mobile…”

 

While everyone needs a bit of flexibility, you may be surprised, and happy to learn that you don’t need to stretch as much as you think. Stretching’s primary goal is to create flexible muscles, but the latest research suggests that completing stretching has benefits and downfalls. Flexibility is easily achieved with other kinds of exercise that are more beneficial for fitness in other ways, for example, strengthening can also improve flexibility. Flexibility is important, however, if you are not as flexible as others, you’ll be happy to know you never need to be that flexible unless you really want to be. Everyone needs some level of flexibility to help prevent pain and injury (Ingraham, 2021).

 

“You should be flexible enough to support your lifestyle and goals”

 

Everyone has different goals in their health journey, especially when it comes to flexibility. What I like to say to clients is that they should be flexible enough to support their lifestyle and goals. Not everyone needs the ability to do the splits, fold in half or contort their shoulders. Training for those feats is a waste of time if you are training for a run, or practising squats or overhead lifting. Common exercises do require flexibility, but not to the same degree as say, the splits.

Your level of flexibility should reflect your physical pursuits and, like everything else in fitness, flexibility is fluid and can change over time to reflect new goals. You can also look at this from a daily functionality angle. Everyone should be flexible enough to complete activities of daily living without pain. Putting on socks, tying shoes, putting dishes away on high shelves and getting into your car all require some level of flexibility. If you’re not flexible enough to do these things without pain, it’s definitely time to start stretching (“Stretching 101: Advantages and disadvantages of stretching – The Movement Athlete”, 2022).

 

If you want to re-evaluate your flexibility goals for your fitness program, give Longevity Exercise Physiology Drummoyne, EdgecliffMarrickvilleBella VistaRandwick, PymbleBalmain, Neutral Bay, Coburg – Melbourne, and Barrie, Ontario – Canada  a call on 1300 964 002 to book in a session today. We can help you make exercise one of your top priorities.

 

Written by Annabel Bergman

 

References:

Benefits of flexibility exercises – Harvard Health. (2015). Retrieved 27 July 2022, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/benefits-of-flexibility-exercises

Capritto, A. (2020). Is having a flexible body important? Yes and no. Retrieved 27 July 2022, from https://www.cnet.com/health/fitness/how-important-is-being-flexible-it-depends-on-your-fitness-goals/

Ingraham, P. (2021). Quite a Stretch. Retrieved 27 July 2022, from https://www.painscience.com/articles/stretching.php

Stretching 101: Advantages and disadvantages of stretching – The Movement Athlete. (2022). Retrieved 27 July 2022, from https://themovementathlete.com/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-stretching/