Benefits of Stretching

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I was at the park the other day and saw an older gentleman doing easily 30-40 min of intense stretching.  I thought good for him but then after the stretching he went to doing all kinds of exercises.  So I had to ask, how long does he "workout"? He proceeds to explain at 79 (He looks maybe 60) it takes him a little longer to get warmed up but he has been stretching like that for 20 years and it has put years back on his life.  He goes on to say that he has specific routines for every other day to do specific stretches but when he is done his body wants to work out, and he looks at me and says I am retired and my wife is a really good cook, so what am I going to do all day and if I don't stay in shape I would be big as a house!

Benefits of Stretching

A true stretching program is more than just a couple of bounces before you go running. Stretching has many benefits and goes hand in hand with the rest of your fitness routine. According to Chad Tackett, president of Global Health and Fitness, “Flexibility prevents injury, increases your range of motion, promotes relaxation, improves performance and posture, reduces stress and keeps your body feeling loose and agile.”


Maintaining flexibility is more important than ever as people age, says exercise physiologist Jason R. Karp in Fitness Management Magazine. “It can improve the quality of life by allowing people to perform what once were simple daily tasks, such as tying their shoes or reaching to the top shelf of a cabinet. Other benefits of flexibility include a reduced risk of injury to muscles and joints, increased body awareness and balance, better posture, improved coordination and enhanced performance of skilled movements.”


Research on Stretching

There is controversy over the effects of stretching: can it really prevent muscle overuse and injuries? The current research suggests that stretching can decrease pain and soreness after exercise. However, no evidence supports the theory that stretching immediately before exercise can prevent overuse or acute injuries. These studies found that warming up by itself has no effect on range of motion, but that when the warm-up is followed by stretching there is an increase in range of motion. Many people misinterpreted this finding to mean that stretching before exercise prevents injuries, even though the clinical research suggests otherwise. A better interpretation is that warm-up prevents injury, whereas stretching has no effect on injury. If injury prevention is your primary objective the evidence suggests that athletes should limit the stretching before exercise and increase warm-up.


Warm-up vs. Stretching

Don’t confuse stretching with warming up. Warming up consists of moderate aerobic activity, such as walking, to get the muscles warm, because a warm muscle stretches more easily than a cold one. After five or so minutes of warm-up, you can begin stretching.


Guidelines for Stretching

Most important: don’t bounce. Use “static” stretching. Static stretching involves a slow, gradual and controlled elongation of the muscle through the full range of motion and held for 15-30 seconds in the farthest comfortable position (without pain). No pain, no gain should not be your guideline here. As you stretch your muscles, you should feel pulling, but no pain. As you hold the stretch, your muscle will relax. As you repeat the stretch, you should have more range of motion. As you feel less tension you can increase the stretch again until they feel the same slight pull. Hold this position until you feel no further increase.


Stretching exercises

Hamstring Stretch

l Sit on the ground with both legs straight out in front of you

l Bend the left leg and place the sole of the left foot alongside the knee of the right leg

l Allow the left leg to lie relaxed on the ground

l Bend forward keeping the back straight

l Repeat with the other leg

Chest Stretch

l Stand tall, feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent

l Hold you arms out to the side parallel with the ground and the palms of the hand facing forward

l Stretch the arms back as far as possible

Biceps Stretch

l Stand tall, feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent

l Hold your arms out to the side parallel with the ground and palms facing forward

l Rotate the hands so the palms face to the rear

l Stretch the arms back as far as possible