We all know exercise and staying active plays a big role on how we age, but a lot of us forget about the importance of stretching and staying flexible. Tight short muscles create muscle imbalances, which leads to loss of function and range of joint motion. Not to forget the aches and pains that goes along with it. Tasks that used to be simple like reaching for something in the cabinet, putting on your seat belt, or even putting on a sock become extremely difficult or impossible. A regular stretching program can help lengthen your muscles and make daily activities so much easier and manageable.
Anyone can learn to stretch regardless of age or flexibility. There are simple stretches you can do on a daily basis while watching television at the computer or before you get out of bed. It feels good and doesn’t have to involve a huge time commitment, but can deliver huge results!
Here are just a few of the benefits of stretching you can expect.
- Increased flexibility, improves function, balance and coordination, lowering your risk for falls.
- Improved circulation increases blood flow to your muscles and arteries to give you more energy and lower blood pressure.
- Reduced muscle tension reduces stress so you feel more relaxed.
- Less prone to injury and muscle strains.
- Better posture helps to minimize discomfort of aches and pains.
- Develops body awareness. As you stretch you focus on that particular part of your body you become more in touch with yourself. It is a form of active meditation for a better sense of well being.
Muscles stretch easier if you warm up first. You can do a 5 minute walk making sure to move your arms, or even taking a warm shower. If you do strength training, stretch between sets. It is particularly important not to sit for more than an hour at a time without getting up and stretching!
Begin a stretch by holding it for 10–30 seconds to where you feel a mild tension. More is not better when comes to stretching. Find the degree of comfortability, then relax into it. Slight discomfort is okay, providing it starts to subside as you hold your pose. Don’t bounce, that can cause tears which can lead to scar tissue and tighter muscles.
Your breathing should be slow and controlled. Deep breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. That sends a signal to the brain to relax and to allow your muscles to lengthen.
If you cannot relax then you’re trying to hard. Ease up slow and start again. Breath and relax.
Make stretching part of your daily activities, you’ll feel better and your body will love it!
Photos by Kathy Boast