Stretching is often overlooked when engaging in physical activity. Unlike lifting and running, stretching does not have obvious results...or does it? Contrary to popular belief, stretching does in fact have many positive effects on the body including increased blood flow and circulation, better posture and fewer ache and pains.
Stretching becomes increasingly important as we age. Why? Your muscles and joints, in particular, benefit the most from the stretching as it helps offset the decline in flexibility. Inevitably, aging will cause your muscles and joints to lose motion in the shoulders, spines and hips, causing pain.
Stretching before exercising, particularly as we age, is extremely beneficial for the overall health of the body. Below are some useful tips:
- Static and Dynamic Stretching: There are two types of stretching exercises: static and dynamic. Static stretching is when you hold a position for ten to thirty seconds or more. This type of strength helps increase ‘lasting lengthening” of the muscle and tissue and is considered the safer choice of the two. Dynamic stretching includes more movement and bouncing, ultimately helping increase motion in the joint. This type of stretching is recommended after you have already warmed up.
- Length: As we get older, it is advised to stretch 2 or 3 days a week. Try to perform and hold each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds. Use stretching as a warm up before any flexibility exercising program and aim for one or two stretches for each body region. Increase your stretches to 4 or 5 times a week to increase flexibility.
- What not to do: Avoid bouncing, holding your breath, straining your knees or neck during stretching. Stretching should not cause pain so remember to be gentle during the process. Keep your back straight during knee bends and avoid dropping your buttocks too low. Also avoid pressing your head backwards during head rolls to avoid straining your neck.
In order for you to stay independent as you age, it is essential to keep your joints and muscles strengthened and flexible. Although stretching exercises may seem simple enough, the consistent and simple movement has a very positive effect on the body. If you are hesitant to engage in these exercises, speak with a physical therapist to create a stretching program fit for you.
Beyond physical advantages, stretching can help reduce symptoms of disease, improve posture and ease stress. With these exercises being both simple and quick, there is no reason not to take a few minutes a day to stretch!