Flexibility exercises use gentle, stretching movements to increase the length of your muscles and the effective range of motion in your joints. They may consist of a series of specific stretching exercises, or be part of a larger exercise program such as yoga or dance classes. Because one of the main goals of stretching is to lengthen the connective tissue surrounding your muscle fibers, flexibility exercises should be done after you've already warmed up your muscles with a few minutes of aerobic activity. A typical session involves a minute or two on each stretching exercise.
Although flexibility exercises don't offer the dramatic overall benefits of aerobic or resistance exercise, regular stretching (several times a week) can be an important way to maintain your body's mobility and freedom of movement, particularly as you get older. Stretching exercises can also improve your posture and are an essential part of effective long-term treatment for strained or chronically sore backs (one of the most common complaints among American adults).
Flexibility exercises can be an important part of an injury prevention or rehabilitation program if chronically tight muscle groups contribute to the problem. You may also find that a few minutes a day of gentle stretching can be very relaxing, physically and mentally.
See Setting Up a Flexibility Program for more help.