Effective fitness programmes should include cardiovascular training, strength building and flexibility exercises, but the flexibility component is often overlooked, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
"Increasing your flexibility improves your ability to move easily," orthopaedic surgeon Dr Raymond Rocco Monto, of Nantucket, Massachusetts, said in an academy news release.
"Some joints lose up to 50 percent of motion as we age. There are many ways to improve your joint flexibility, including controlled stretches held for 10-30 seconds, stretches that rely on reflexes to produce deeper flexibility, as well as yoga and Pilates," explained Monto.
Image: Man doing stretching and warm up exercises
Including flexibility exercises in your workouts helps reduce back and joint pain, increases circulation, improves joint motion, boosts athletic performance and improves muscle health, he added.
To get the most out of flexibility training, always warm up before you stretch, Monto said. Stretching cold muscles can lead to injuries.
He advises stretching slowly and gently, and breathing into your stretch to avoid muscle tension. Relax and hold each stretch for 10 to 30 seconds.
Don't bounce while stretching because doing so can cause injuries. Also, stretching should not hurt, Monto said.
If you feel pain, go easier on the stretch, breathe deeply and relax into it.
Image: Pilates poses from iStock