Even when trainers tell you not to force things, there's an implicit message that your eventual goal is a greater stretch. If you can touch your knees now, you should be aiming for the floor. If you can touch the floor today, work toward hugging your chest to your knees. But achieving those goals may offer nothing more than bragging rights. "Flexibility is certainly important, and you should be flexible enough to do the things you need or want to do without being uncomfortable," says Jo A. Hannafin, MD, PhD, orthopedic director of the Women's Sports Medicine Center at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. "But there is no health benefit in having a hyperflexible body or being able to twist yourself into a pretzel just for the sake of doing so." In fact, pushing your body into extreme stretches can cause injury. People with tremendously lax joints may be at greater risk for hurting themselves because their ligaments can't effectively keep their joints in position, explains Polly de Mille, an exercise physiologist who works with Dr. Hannafin.
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