Mobility and stretching should be part of everyone's health and fitness regime. It's not just about how to warm up: as we get older, it becomes harder and harder to stay mobile and active. Limbering up, whether that's through yoga or just a daily five-minute stretch, can help fight the shortening of our muscles due to aging, keeping us active for longer.
However, not many of us do stretch every day, so we don't realise how beneficial it can be. Fitness YouTuber Geek Climber (opens in new tab), who began as an average guy trying to learn calisthenics and climbing techniques, noticed how tight his muscles were after a long period of training his muscles.
"I came to the very logical conclusion I needed to start dedicating myself to training my mobility in order to progress in calisthenics," says Geek Climber, who doesn't go by any other alias online. "I was only able to get my fingertips to touch the ground. I tried to push further, but I thought I was going to get a cramp! I also tested myself in the 'side fold' position, and I was extremely stiff... like an old man!"
See how he got on below:
Taking inspiration from another fitness influencer, Calimove, he began 80 days of consecutive mobility training, doing exercises such as back-bends and deep squats. Some coaches advocate holding a deep squat position for a few minutes to increase flexibility in your knees, hips, pelvis and ankles, while the back-bends were essential to the Geek Climber's attempts to execute a perfect bridge position at the end of his 80 days.
"It's very important to find a camera to film yourself" says Geek Climber. It happens quite often that what your mind thinks your body is doing, is very different to what your body is actually doing. Filming will help minimise these problems."
By day 78, the Climber was able to execute a perfect bridge – something he could not do on day one due to his extremely limited mobility. He found his muscles ached less day-to-day, and stretching made the perfect "active recovery" exercise, to keep his muscles healthy during rest days.
Stretching: How to get started (and why)
If you want to learn some key mobility exercises, our stretching exercises beginner's guide is a great place to start. We'd also recommend mobility aids such as our best foam roller and best resistance band guides.
A report from Harvard University (opens in new tab) tells us muscles "shorten" when they're not used, becoming stiffer and limiting your range of motion. The shorter your muscles, the more limited your movement becomes. At one end of the scale is a flexible yogi, while at the other is the bent shuffle of an elderly person, whose muscles have shortened through age and lack of use.
This is where stretching comes in. Practising stretching and mobility techniques on a regular basis, especially after a workout when our muscles are already warm, helps to keep the muscles longer. You're actively fighting against the process of aging, which means you're sure to enjoy many more years of free movement compared to somebody that doesn't stretch at all.
Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and News Editor at Fit&Well, covering all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.
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