Published: April 24, 2015
Flexibility is an often forgotten important component of physical fitness. Even if you're not planning on getting into peak physical condition, improving your flexibility can enhance everyday living.
When people talk about flexibility they are talking about the range of motion (ROM) and ease of mobility about a joint. For example, the flexibility of your shoulder is measured by the extent to which you can circle your arm vertically and move it horizontally across your body.
How easily you can do these movements also determines your shoulder flexibility.
The flexibility of any joint in your body is dependent on the length and extensibility (ability to stretch) of your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia that cross joints, as well as the shape of your bones and the cartilage in your joint(s).
Within your body, the flexibility of different joints can differ and may be limited by the effects of injury, arthritis, some diseases and lack of use, bulky muscles, and tight muscles, tendons and ligaments.
Movement around joints may be inhibited by calcium deposits and inflammation in the joints which causes pain.
It is important to move your joints regularly by performing range of motion exercises as the absence of regular movement may lead to shortened muscles, ligaments and tendons. Regular movement also helps to lubricate your joints.
Importantly, life situations which position you in a way that shortens or immobilises muscles for long periods may result in shortened muscles, tendons and ligaments and loss of mobility around the associated joint.
If you sit for long periods at your computer using the key board your chest muscles and associated tendons and ligaments will become tighter and reduce the range of motion about your shoulder joint.
Likewise if you concentrate on strengthening your chest muscles and pay little attention to your upper back muscles your shoulder movement may be compromised over time.
Joint mobility varies considerably between individuals from being very "tight" with limited range of motion, or "hypermobile" as when someone is very flexible or "double jointed". Both of these extremes can result in injury.
Hypermobility may be associated with ankle and knee injuries...link to the full article to learn more.
Corbin, C.B. & Lindsey, R. (1994). Concepts of Physical Fitness. Dubuque, IA: Wm. C. Brown Communications Inc.
CSEP (2013) Physical Activity Training for Health Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology