On the home stretch!
I’m Barrie, and I warmly welcome you to my tri-weekly blog Over50andfit.
Question: What is a very important exercise activity which most of us neglect? Answer: Stretching our muscles.
I was one of those people. Until last year. After fracturing ten bones when being hit by a car, I finally came to the realization of the immense benefits of stretching. I could not now miss my early morning stretch. A shrewd person once claimed that a stretch is a good yawn for the body. And we all know about the calming effects of a good yawn! Stretching can become your new best friend. Stretching is much like flossing – you know that it’s good for your health, but either it’s too onerous or you don’t know how to do it properly. Regular stretching becomes even more important after 50, when flexibility naturally declines as muscles lose strength and tone.
Great Benefits of Stretching
- Giver you the mobility to move your limbs through the full range of motion
- Keeps your muscles flexible, strong, healthy, and makes your body more relaxed
- Increases blood flow to your muscles
- Helps curb stress, and calms your mind
- Helps to heal and prevent back pain
- Improves your performance in physical activity
- Helps relieve post-exercise aches and pains
- Prepares the body for the rigors of exercising
- Can reduce the risk of injuries
- Can help to improve posture
Methods of Stretching
There are many methods of stretching, but the two most common are the static and dynamic stretches. Static stretches are those in which you stand, sit or lie still in a comfortable position and perform a stretch for generally up to 30 seconds. They involve moving the joints through their full range of motion. They are usually done after exercising. Example: sit upright on the floor and reach for your toes. Dynamic stretches are a series of movements used to warm up the body before exercising. These stretches are not held for any period of time, like static stretches. Example: A swimmer may move her arms in circles, whereas a runner may jog in place.
When to stretch and how often
Whereas we can stretch before and after exercising, it is also prudent to establish a weekly stretching regimen for regular body maintenance, in order to keep our muscles flexible, strong and health. There appears to be no consensus on how often to stretch, but a commendable start would be for10 minutes three times weekly. In addition, there is no consensus on which time of day. Some people stretch first thing in the morning, in order to prepare their body for the day; some choose to stretch before bed to relax their muscles and sleep better.
Safety tips for stretching
– Don’t stretch beyond what is comfortable. A slight degree of discomfort is normal, but you should not feel any pain – stop immediately if you feel sharp pain.
– Be gentle, use smooth, slow movements. Avoid jerking or bouncing movements.
– Start slowly, with just a few stretches at first. Add more repetitions and stretches as you build your flexibility.
Coach Kozak of HASat gives a 15-minute static stretching routine for beginners.
Kinesiologist Taylor of Rejuv Medical Fitness provides an 8-minute dynamic stretching routine.
Caution: I strongly urge you to consult your family doctor before you begin an exercise program, particularly if you have not exercised for a long period of time. In addition, start slowly and gradually add more time and then intensity.
Please feel free to share your comments and questions.
In my next blog, I will discuss the merits of tai chi.
Yours in fitness.