Stretching and flexibility is an essential component of any physical fitness plan, but it’s also crucial for daily life. Stretching shouldn’t be used only by elite athletes. Stretching should be something we all do on a daily, regular basis and should be part of your routine. You wouldn’t expect to see an athlete come right off the bench and begin playing without doing some stretching or warm-up. The same goes for you on a typical day.
As we age, stretching becomes even more vital as we lose valuable flexibility and range of motion. This loss of flexibility can lead to unexpected injuries. The mere definition of flexibility explains it all.
Flexibility is the quality of bending easily without breaking.
That sentence in and of itself describes an aging person’s hopes and dreams. To live each day bending and moving smoothly without breaking.
As someone who recently tore their calf muscle while playing frisbee at a local vineyard, I can attest to this definition and statement. I know what you’re thinking, there was alcohol involved, so it makes sense. This injury was not an ARI or alcohol-related injury. It was merely a freak accident due to my advanced age and sudden movement. I am someone who works out every day, so I took this injury hard. How could this happen to someone like me? I can explain it with one word, stretching.
Why are stretching and flexibility so necessary?
The question of why stretching and flexibility are necessary is not an easy one to answer, as there are many reasons. The simple answer is obvious. Everyone wants to move freely, but the importance of stretching and flexibility is also critical. Critical for your overall function in life as well as your health and fitness level.
Tight muscles are bad!
Lack of stretching can lead to tight muscles, aches and pains, poor posture, and a slew of other ailments. Performing the simplest tasks, such as getting out of bed, can become troublesome when your muscles are sore and tight. A simple morning stretching routine can make all the difference for your flexibility.
A person who does not do any form of stretching, thus limiting flexibility, is prone to having poor balance. This poor balance becomes more dangerous as you age when a simple fall can shatter bones, including hips, knees, and shoulders. It’s not just the elderly who should worry about poor balance due to lousy flexibility. Anyone participating in a sport at all levels should be concerned as well. Balance plays a significant role in injury prevention.
Stretching helps increase blood flow
There are two types of stretching, dynamic and static. Static stretches are the most common form of stretches. These stretching exercises are the kind you hold in place for a certain period of time. They involve minimal movement. Think of someone sitting on the ground, reaching for their foot or someone bending over to touch their toes. These are static stretches.
Dynamic stretches, on the other hand, involve movement to elongate your muscles. Because dynamic stretching involves movement, it will increase circulation in the body, therefore, increasing energy levels as well. Examples of dynamic stretching include lunges, bodyweight squats, shoulder circles, etc.
When is the best time for stretching
Ideally, the best time for stretching to increase flexibility and range of motion is always after your workout or when your body is warm. Before exercising is when those dynamic stretches will benefit you the most. Dynamic stretches will help warm up your body and get the blood flowing to your muscles.
Tips for proper stretching
We’ve all heard the basics when it comes to stretching. Don’t bounce when you’re stretching, and you have to stretch before you workout, you have to hold every stretch until it hurts.
- Hold each stretch for 10-20 seconds. Stretch to the point where you start to feel discomfort and DO NOT go any further. Think of pulling a rubber band to its limit without breaking it.
- Stretch different parts of your body, not just one area.
- Make sure to repeat each “set” of stretching exercises 2-3 times.
- Do not bounce. Come up or out of each stretch slowly.
- Breathe when stretching. Do not hold your breath for any reason.
- If you feel any pain whatsoever STOP.
- Mix up your routine by adding new stretches or try Yoga.
- Consult a physician before starting any form of exercise routine.
Remember that stretching is not just for elite athletes. Everyone should be performing some stretching program daily to improve flexibility and range of motion. It doesn’t take long to add this beneficial and healthy routine to your schedule.
Do you perform stretching exercises? What are some of your favorite stretches, and why? Let us know below in the comment section.