What It Means To Be Fit: Suppleness
Slow down joint degeneration.
What it means to be fit 1: Suppleness through stretching
Being flexible isn’t about being able to wrap your legs behind your neck, or even touch your toes; it’s about having a good range of motion in all your joints, allowing for easy, fluid movement, good posture and muscle balance. Regular stretching increases blood supply and nutrients to joint structures, keeping tissues pliable and elastic and possibly slowing joint degeneration. Flexibility differs from joint to joint. You may have fantastic hip mobility, for example, while you find it difficult to reach your hand around your back to do up a dress, because your shoulders are tight and immobile. That’s why a total stretching programme is important, rather than simply focusing on one or two muscle groups. Regular flexibility work can help to offset the affects of ageing and slow down the decline in suppleness. It can also help to realign soft tissue structures that have adapted badly because of postural habits.
What it means to be fit 2: Core stability
Core stability is a phrase often bandied about by fitness professionals – but what does it mean and how can you get it? In brief, core stability refers to the strength and responsiveness of the muscles around the back and pelvis (the core), from which all other movement emanates. Poor core stability puts you at risk of injury, back pain and muscular imbalances – and is usually associated with poor posture and body awareness. Exercises to improve core stability differ from typical strength, stamina or flexibility exercises in that they are often very subtle, can be repeated a number of times each day and usually don’t require any external resistance. The other difference is that you won’t actually see when your core stability has improved. The muscles you are working lay deep below the surface of the body, so any improvement in strength or recruitment is more likely to manifest itself in improved efficiency of movement, better posture or an absence of discomfort.
What it means to be fit 3: Training the core
To get a feel of the core muscles, stand up and place your fingertips a few centimetres in from your hipbones and feign a cough – you should feel the muscles contract involuntarily under your fingertips. The easiest way to initiate a contraction in these muscles is to start by pulling up the pelvic floor (as if you were trying to stop yourself from peeing). This is because the lower fibres of the deep-set transversus abdominis muscle actually intermingle with the pelvic floor muscles. Now imagine you are wearing a corset around your waist, which has a zip in it. Continue to pull in and up, using those muscles you located in the cough, imagining you are doing up the zip from your pubic bone to your navel. Breathe freely throughout and sustain the contraction for a few seconds, building up the length of the holds as you get more used to it.
So, there is much to be gained from getting fit! Fitness is not all about losing weight, entering competitions or winning times, getting fit now might mean that you will still have the flexibility to brush your hair when you are 60 – how much of an incentive is that!