Tight hamstrings? Stiff hips? Check out these top tips for increasing flexibility.
Do yoga. If you think you need to be flexible before you give yoga a go then think again. You do yoga to gain more flexibility. Yoga has gained huge popularity over the last decade and it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the different styles on offer. Try one that is local to where you live or work so you’re not stressed trying to get there. A community based class can be just as beneficial as city yoga. Yoga should make you feel positively different afterwards which is a good indictor that it’s the right class for you. Baffled about the different styles? If you’re really stiff, try hot Bikram Yoga which is designed to warm you up whilst you work and protect you from overstretching. Iyengar Yoga is based on precise body alignment to slowly and deeply get into your joints. Vinyasa flow and Jivamukti yoga are usually performed to music where you flow from posture to posture.
Keep moving. Move as much as you can! Prolonged sitting not only increases risk of cardiovascular disease and weight gain – it also decreases muscle flexibility. It’s easy to get into a habit of sitting down for hours, especially if you work at a computer. Do a few minutes of stretching at your desk and set your alarm at intervals throughout the day to remind you to get up and walk about. The World Health Organisation recommend at least 150 minutes of physical activity (that raises your pulse) per week.
Eat oily fish. Evidence that consumption of fish such as mackerel, tuna, salmon and cod reduces inflammation in joints is convincing. Official advice is to eat fish at least twice a week (140g per portion), at least one of which should be oily fish. Fish is an excellent source of an omega 3 fatty acid known as DHA which has anti-inflammatory properties. It is found in large quantities of the human brain and is used to strengthen synapses which enhances learning and memory too. If you’re vegetarian, try a daily tablespoon of chia seeds or spirulina powder which contains other fatty acids that can be converted into DHA. However, DHA from fish, eggs and meat contains 10-100 times more than plant based alternatives. Taking fish oil supplement may not have the same benefits.
Be a copy cat. A cat stretching after a nap or children rolling around on the floor can be great role models for the things we can do to keep supple. The ability to move, stretch, rock and roll is a blessing.
Always stretch after your cardio workout. Whether you’re a keen runner, fanatical about spinning or mad for the cross trainer, make sure you stretch your hamstrings. Consistent cardio workouts keep you fit but can shorten the muscles in the backs of your legs. To compensate, the lumbar (lower) spine tilts forwards. Virtually all long term back pain is accompanied by tight hamstrings. What’s the remedy? A seated stretch could hold the key. After your workout, sit down with both legs in front of you, feet together. Bend the knees and stretch your arms forward to touch your toes. Hold for 20 seconds whilst keeping your spine straight and eyes forward. Feel the stretch down the backs of your kegs. Eventually try and straighten your legs whilst continuing to stretch forward.
Take note of these top five tips over the next few weeks and give them a whirl. You will find that even getting out of bed will feel physically easier.
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