Yoga, pilates, tai chi and stretching are all recommended for improving flexibility by the NHS. While pilates and yoga concentrate on building strength and flexibility, yoga is generally regarded as having a deeper focus on increasing the range of joint motion.
“Within the physical movements, there are lots of opportunities to elongate the muscles,” says Chris Magee, head of yoga at Psycle London. Tai chi loosens muscles and stretches the whole body. It is especially useful for people with limited mobility, recovering from injury or balance problems as it can be adapted to suit a range of abilities.
Make sure you get enough protein
There are no direct links between diet and improved flexibility, says Claire Fudge, clinical dietician and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, but including good quality protein post-exercise, as part of a balanced diet, is a good move.
When collagen, which is made from the building blocks of protein, is combined with vitamin C, it may help to decrease joint pain, supporting tendons and aiding recovery, says Fudge. “While it won’t be a wonder cure for making someone more flexible, it may help reduce muscle soreness after exercise.”
Hold stretches for long enough
Stretching is crucial but not doing it for long enough is a common mistake, says Dr Tony Kay, professor of biomechanics at the University of Northampton. “Most people only hold a stretch for five to 10 seconds, but if you want to affect the stiffness of the tissues, it needs to be for quite a bit longer.” McGuigan agrees, explaining that there are differing opinions on the duration of a static stretch, but she recommends around 30 seconds.