Stretching for Flexibility Should Be First.. and Last
Flexibility is a major player in a lot of what keeps people in a sedentary lifestyle. With age and weight gain, it often just doesn't feel good to move anymore. The metabolic consequences of slowing down results in a cascading effect, making the body even more sluggish. This process makes flexibility a much more important fitness goal than one would think.
Stretching is the first, last, and easiest thing that people can start out with to make their other fitness goals happen. Warming up and cooling down both involve a series of stretches, designed to loosen and warm up muscles, relax spasmodic and tense muscles, and get fluids moving in stiff joints. Stretching with a cool down regime helps to relieve stiffness that can result from a workout. Both warm-up and cool-down stretching reduce the chances of injury.
There are a wide array of stretches available in many disciplines and at a range of skill levels. People who are just starting an exercise regime should start out simple, do the exercises slow, and concentrate on the proper form for each stretch that they do, in order to protect their joints from damage. It's all about taking things slowly and allowing oneself to learn the stretches properly. Stretching, like any other type of fitness discipline, is a skill. That's why watching an advanced yoga class and feeling like that is an impossible goal is unkind to oneself. Simple, targeted stretching that matches the rest of the workout is the best method in the beginning. More advanced poses and postures can come with practice.
Stretching is an appropriate part of all types of fitness regimes, whether it be weight training, aerobic exercise, or endurance training. It gets the body ready for what is going to come next.
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