Possibly one of the most important parts of fitness training is flexibility and mobility. Flexibility is the ability of your muscles to stretch, and mobility is being able to move your joints and tissues through their full range of motion. Both are important to athletic performance and for avoiding injury. Muscles and joints that are flexible and mobile — as well as strong — are much less susceptible to sprains and other injuries.
Developing research has demonstrated that many of the benefits of exercise are mediated through the role of skeletal muscle as an endocrine organ. That is, contracting muscles release multiple substances known as myokines, which promote the growth of new tissue, tissue repair, and various anti-inflammatory functions, which in turn reduce the risk of developing various inflammatory diseases.
^ Colbert LH, Visser M, Simonsick EM, Tracy RP, Newman AB, Kritchevsky SB, Pahor M, Taaffe DR, Brach J, Rubin S, Harris TB (July 2004). "Physical activity, exercise, and inflammatory markers in older adults: findings from the Health, Aging and Body Composition Study". Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 52 (7): 1098–104. doi:10.1111/j.1532-5415.2004.52307.x. PMID 15209647.
If you've ever fallen in the shower trying to wash one foot while standing on the other, you realize the importance of having good balance. But balance is important for so many other reasons. Especially as you age, improving your balance can help you avoid falls and stay active and independent. Better balance can also improve your performance in your favorite athletic activity.
Many of the activities you do to build strength will also help your balance. Balance is partly a matter of developing your small stabilizer muscles that provide support and keep you steady. Free weight exercises, such as lunges and deadlifts, will help strengthen the stabilizer muscles. Even better, include some single-leg exercises, such as single-leg deadlifts and pistol squats, in your strength-training routine.