Health Tips

Resource: Dr. Amir S. Kazemi PT., DPT, OCS, CSCS
Board Certified in Orthopedic Physical Therapy,
Kimberly Staines of Physiotherapy

Flexibility & You

Flexibility is an important component of physical fitness. Flexibility, in physical fitness, can be defined as the looseness f the joints, muscles and the ligaments. Like other components of fitness, flexibility is more important for some sports than others. For example, sprinters and especially hurdlers, require great amounts of hip flexibility for their sprinting stride.

Flexibility requirements are both sports specific and joint specific. In general, athletes must have sufficient flexibility to meet the demands of the sport, otherwise performance is sub-optimal and the risk of injury is increased. Flexibility can be measured in tests that involve various movements. An individual’s flexibility is an inherent attribute that has some potential for adaptation with flexibility training.

Flexibility training refers to the practice of stretching. There are many approaches to stretching tissues. It is essential that the stretch sufficiently stress the target muscle or joints, in order to induce an adaptation and increase the level of flexibility. However, it is also important to avoid causing an injury by overstressing the target area. The proper amount of flexibility will prevent injuries, especially in the athletic population.

Flexibility is known to decrease with age and the older athlete often complains of increased stiffness when trying to perform common sporting activities. The loss of flexibility parallels the age-associated strength loss. As one gets older, the primary flexibility problem involves the reduction of the functional range within which the muscles operate. The muscles also become shorter and subsequently lose their ability to operate effectively at the extremes of motion. Flexibility is specific to given sports and is typically quantified using tests of maximum range of motion. Stretching techniques are also used to improve flexibility in the long term.