Saturday, September 4, 2021

I love it, but a lot of my clients seem annoyed when I suggest certain stretches to help address their aches and pains. I often ask if they stretch after a workout and am sometimes met with a rather disdainful look. I understand, as stretching can take a bit of time and patience as the results aren't immediately apparent. So why is stretching important?

Harvard Health Publishing from the Harvard Medical School has a succinct answer:

Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong and healthy, and we need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints. Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight. Then, when you call on the muscles for activity, they are weak and unable to extend all the way. That puts you at risk for joint pain, strains and muscle damage.

What is the best way to stretch? Gently! It's important to never force any stretch to the point of pain. Move slowly into a stretch. This allows you to actually feel where the tension in the muscle group starts. Stop, breathe and hold the stretch for about 30 seconds. Do not bounce with the stretch as this can result in injuring the soft tissues. The time is slightly different for everyone, but you want to hold the stretch until you start to feel the area release a bit (usually around 30 seconds), hold for another breath or two and then ease out of the stretch. If you stretch an area once every day you will start to see and feel the difference over time. 

It is best to warm up the muscles first before you stretch. Just 10 minutes of light exercise is enough to get blood and oxygen flowing into the different areas of the body, and then the tissues will naturally be more responsive to stretching. 

Clients often ask me about starting yoga classes to help with stretching. I heartily recommend yoga, but it is important to do your research and find the style of yoga that works best for you. It is also important to know that yoga is not just about flexibility, but is incredibly strengthening as well. If yoga speaks to you, bravo! If not, just add a few stretches after your exercise routine; after a walk; a bike; or workout at the gym and your body will thank you. 

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