THE IMPORTANCE OF STRETCHING
A FEW ENTRIES AGO we gave some tricks about HOW TO WORK OUT WHEN TIME IS THE ISSUE. Some of those tricks were just about stretching because as important as working out or playing sports, stretching is to our health and body.
Here are some Harvard Medical School insights about the importance of stretching in our daily routines.
Stretching is necessary at any age. It increases our range of motion, keeps muscles limber, improves posture and balance, and helps prevent falls. As the years go by, stretching becomes even more important to our daily lives. Our joints become less flexible over time. Inflexibility puts a crimp in daily activities, making it harder to walk, raise our arms overhead, or turn our head while backing up the car. It undermines balance, too, which can cause life-altering falls.
When legs muscles are tight or rigid —a common result of too much sitting—we’re not able to fully extend our leg and straighten our knee, so our stride may be shortened and less powerful. Inflexible hamstrings have been implicated in chronic low back pain, because they change the tilt of the pelvis, placing more pressure on the joints in the lower back. And for anyone who plays sports or works out, tight muscles may contribute to muscle strains, knee pain, and diminished performance because the muscles aren’t able to fully extend.
As we work our way up and down the body, many more examples come to mind. Tight ankle and calf muscles may turn a trip into a tumble. Tight arm and side muscles may interfere with any task or sport involving reaching. Tight neck muscles make it hard to look behind. Being inflexible can even affect posture. For example, tight chest muscles can pull the shoulders forward, giving a hunched silhouette instead of a longer, slimmer looking one.
THE IDEAL STRETCHING ROUTINE
Stretching promotes flexibility and helps joints maintain a healthy range of motion—and in doing so, also lowers the chances of joint and muscle strain.
But how often should we stretch? How long should we hold a stretch? And how many times should we do each stretch?
A panel of experts convened by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) reviewed a wide range of studies to help answer these questions. Stretching has been studied much less rigorously than other forms of exercise, so the science is not as strong. But, based on the evidence, the panel agreed that:
- Healthy adults should do flexibility exercises (stretches, yoga, or tai chi) for all major muscle-tendon groups—neck, shoulders, chest, trunk, lower back, hips, legs, and ankles—at least two to three times a week.
- For optimal results, we should spend a total of 60 seconds on each stretching exercise. So, if we can hold a particular stretch for 15 seconds, repeating it three more times would be ideal. If we can hold the stretch for 20 seconds, two more repetitions would do the trick.
SO! LET’S START PRACTICING YOGA OR TAI CHI!
I am Love … I am Success!
Remember that loving ourselves means taking care, pampering and enjoying our health and our bodies, looking good and feeling good to please ourselves in the very first place and then to please others. The book I am Love … I am Success takes you through the path of that love for ourselves!