flexible

fitness

How important is being flexible? It depends on your fitness goals

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No need to aspire to a cat’s level of flexibility.


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People in pursuit of fitness often allow flexibility to slip by the wayside to chase after other goals, such as building muscle, losing weight and improving health markers. We only have so much time to exercise, after all, and flexibility training doesn’t provide the same benefits as running or lifting weights

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. In this article, you’ll learn the benefits of flexibility (and the dangers of inflexibility), plus how flexible you really need to be. 

Read more: Should you pay someone to help you stretch? I tried it to find out

While you certainly can work towards contorting yourself like the woman above, most of us never need to be that flexible.

How important is flexibility?

Flexibility is important — to an extent. It has been overhyped and glamorized in the fitness industry, however, and it’s become yet another seemingly unattainable fitness goal because contortionists on Instagram would have you believe that flexibility means bending yourself into a human scorpion. 

If you are a nonbendy person, you’ll be happy to know you never, ever need to be that flexible unless you really want to. Everyone does need some level of flexibility, however, to avoid pain and injuries. 

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Amanda Capritto/CNET

How flexible should you be?

Not to sound vague, but everyone should be flexible enough, and “enough” means different things to everyone. As a personal trainer, I’ve honestly found that this is the best way to put it. Everyone 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 just need to go for a run, drop into a squat or lift weights above your head. Common exercises do require flexibility, but not to the same degree as 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

Benefits of flexibility 

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Your stretching routine should reflect the activities you want to do in life. 


Amanda Capritto/CNET

It’s so easy to skip the cool-down portion of your workout, but dedicating a few minutes to stretching after you exercise can significantly improve your flexibility over time.

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