January 29, 2023 — If there was ever a good example of the phrase “Use it or lose it”, it would be how flexible you are. You might not do that great on this simple 5 part flexibility test, but the good news is that if you work at it, you can get better. So you can look over your shoulder to see oncoming cars better, bend over to tie your shoes, walk a little faster, improve your balance, and maybe even get a little more zip on your pickleball overheads. Flexibility can also help with sleep and an overall better quality of life.
The NY Times interviewed experts in physical therapy to come up with its “Can You Pass This Flexibility Test” article. The tests are easy and quick, and will give you an idea of your flexibility and range of motion.
- Toe touch. How far can you reach when you bend from the waist and keep your knees straight? Some people are naturally more flexible, and those with long arms have an advantage. If you can touch your toes, you are doing well – if you can only get to your knees, less so.
- Neck turn. Seated in a chair or kneeling on the floor, can you turn your head 90 degrees comfortably?
- The open book – thoracic spine rotation. Lie on your side with your knees bent together on the floor, arms together on the same side as your knees. Raise your top arm and try to touch the floor on the opposite side. How close can you get to the floor without moving your knees? If you can’t reach, this might be a good area to work on.
- Calves and ankle test. Kneel or stand with the one knee touching a wall in front of you, that foot flat on the ground. While keeping that knee against the wall, how many inches can you move that foot away from the wall while keeping it flat on the ground? Four inches is very good.
- Hip rotation. Sitting all day is not good for hip rotation, hamstrings, etc. Lie on your back with one leg straight up. Cross the other leg across over the first knee, and try to reach it with your hands. If you can’t reach it with your hands, you need more flexibility.
Bottom line: There is no question that improved flexibility can improve our quality of life. The Times article has many more tips on how to incorporate short and regular stretches into your week. It also has photos of these stretches so you understand how to do them correctly.
Comments? Do you have regular stretches built into your weekly schedule? Have you noticed that you aren’t as flexible as you used to be? Please comment in the section below.