The Benefits of Daily Stretching

For many years,the debates over the value of stretching and which form of stretching is better,have been hot and heavy!I am here to tell you now,stretching is very beneficial to the body and mind!Stretch Daily!Make stretching a part of your fitness routine and make it part of your life.Regardless of your regular workout schedule,make stretching a part of your day.There are many benefits to stretching:

Improves flexibility and joint range of motion.

Improves circulation.

. Improves posture and balance,by allowing you to sit and stand taller.

. Mentally and physiologically beneficial.

Chronic pain can be reduced.

Feel stronger,more resilient and vigorous.

As you can see,there are a wide range of benefits for stretching.One of the overlooked benefits,is simply increasing one’s ability to handle “real life” actions.Simple tasks,such as lifting groceries,walking up stairs and getting up from a chair,become easier and less painful,when doing a consistent stretching program.

 

How To Get Started

Getting started with a stretching program can be accomplished in various ways.Many people stretch prior to and after a workout.In addition,many people like to stretch first thing in the morning.Ideally,this would be done right after waking-up.This type of stretching program can be done sitting on the edge of the bed,sitting in a straight back chair,or standing.I would recommend swinging your legs out of bed slowly and sitting for a short period of time on the edge of the bed.This will insure that you are oriented,stable and balanced.Have both feet on the floor and your back straight.Stand-up straight and start with 10-12 deep breaths.Slowly inhale and exhale.When breathing is completed,raise your arms over head and move from side to side.This will stretch out the shoulder area.A series of “Shoulder Shrugs” is a good next step.A “Shoulder Shrug”,is a rotation of your shoulders forward and backwards.Do a series of 7-10 “Shoulder Shrugs”.Next,slowly swing both arms in a windmill motion forward and backward 10-12 times. Next,put one arm behind your head in a bent,angled position.Grab the elbow with your opposite hand and “crawl” your fingers down your back,as far as you can comfortably reach.Repeat this stretch with the opposite arm.Finish the sequence by slowly bending at your waist and touching as far down on your ankles as possible.The ultimate goal would be to touch your toes.Hold this position for 20-30 seconds.This is an example of Static Stretching.As with all standing stretches,use correct form. Stand tall,with feet shoulder width apart.

Types of Stretching

We will concentrate on three basic,recognized types of stretching. These are,Static,Dynamic and Resistance Stretching.A key element to consider is having a proper warm-up period.When doing a light stretch first thing in the morning after rising,is a preparing for the day!A warm-up prior to stretching,is a more formal preparation for a workout.When warming-up,do some light aerobic activity,such as walking on a Treadmill,or riding a Stationary Bike. The benefits of a light warm-up prior to stretching are listed below:

Elevates the Core Body Temperature.

Improves blood flow.

Lubricates the muscle joints,allowing them to contract and relax more efficiently.

Makes it easier to burn calories.

Increases heart and respiratory rate.

Prepares the body for a demanding workout.

Note,stretching “cold muscles” can lead to pulled or strained muscles.

Static Stretching

Static stretching,is the most conventional form of stretching.It is a slow and constant holding of a position for 20-30 seconds.This type of stretching improves your range of motion and flexibility. The jury is still out,with regard to Static Stretching significantly reducing injury rate. This type of stretching generally makes you feel better and gives you “piece of mind”Static Stretching is best when a warm-up period is used prior to starting the actual stretching sequence.

Examples of Static Stretching

  1. Seated position.Slightly bend one leg and pull in towards the center of the body,while reaching down to the ankle area,with the hand on the same side of the body.Hold this position for 20-30 seconds,change legs and repeat.This stretch is beneficial for the lower back,hamstrings and hips.
  2. Seated position.Bring soles of the feet together facing each other.Press down slightly on the thighs with both elbows,simultaneously. This will open up the groin area on both sides.Hold for 20-30 seconds.This is very good Static Stretch for the groin area.

Examples of Dynamic Stretching

  1. Stand upright,with the back straight,feet shoulder width apart.With one hand hold onto a stationary object,such as a small chair,wall or fence.Begin by swinging one leg in a side to side,criss cross motion.Do 12 repetitions and change to the opposite leg.
  2. Same positioning as # 1.Hold a stationary object with one hand and swing leg forward and back.Do 12 repetitions and change to opposite leg.

Note,balance is key with Dynamic Stretching.Do not over extend leg movements.This can decrease balance and potentially cause injury.

Resistance Stretching

Last but not least,is Resistance Stretching. Following a Static Stretching routine,add in some Resistance Stretching.Resistance Stretching increases the length of your muscles,assisting in strengthening target areas and helping to lessen back pain.

Key Resistant Stretches

There is one key Resistant Stretch with 3 parts.You will need a partner for this sequence.Lay on your back and raise one straight leg upward.Your partner will place the heel of their hand,against the heel area of your foot.Both parties will apply pressure.Your partner will offer resistance ,as you push your foot forward.Hold this position for 10 seconds.Repeat 2-3 times.Part 2 of this stretch,is to push outward. Use the same leg positioning in parts 2 and 3,as in part 1.Your partner will place their hand in the same position,as part 1.Hold for 10 seconds.Repeat 2-3 times.Part 3,is an inward push against hand resistance by your partner.Hold the resistance for 10 seconds.Repeat 2-3 times. Change legs and repeat the sequence.

As you can see,the simple notion of stretching has many forms and elements.Research is continually taking place,regarding stretching.Stretching is the new preventative medicine!Stretch daily,for short and long term benefits.

Mike Zinn