Flexibility and the importance of stretching

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

cat-cow stretch
The cat-cow stretch lets you flex your muscles with all the fun of pretending to be an animal!

Figure skaters have not only evolved a physical resistance to dizziness, but their bodies also have superhuman flexibility. However, you don’t have to be an Olympian to benefit from stretching muscles, because doing warm-ups before exercise can prevent injuries.

Now, while you may have heard that you should stretch one muscle at a time, it’s actually best to do a multi-muscle routine that gets your blood pumping too.

Cardio exercise, which is anything that gets your heart to beat faster and harder for a period of time, loosens muscles by raising their temperature.

Stretching also helps increase your strength, because looser muscles can be trained harder and pushed to greater limits.

It’s usually a good idea to get your spine and upper body stretched before the lower body. The “cat-cow” stretch, for example, is safe and fun. Just get on all fours with your head facing forward and your back flat like a table, then inhale while dropping your belly and slowly lifting the neck and head up like a cow. Follow it up with an exhale, where you suck in your belly and droop your head down like an arched cat.

To get your lower abs, hips, and bottom flexible, lie down flat on your back, then bring your knees up to your chest one at a time, holding each one in place for 5 seconds while extending your other leg and flexing the foot.

Featured image courtesy of Scarleth White on Flickr. Image of cat-cow posture courtesy of wikiHow.