We live in a world where many of us are now connected to wrist bracelets that tell us how many steps we have taken and how much exercise we are getting. There are exercise classes and 24 hour gyms and marathons to run and we are literally bombarded by the importance of exercising. Few of us recognize however regular stretching is just as important as regular exercise! Let’s look at some of the benefits:
- Even a short amount of time stretching (say 10 minutes) of stretching helps to improve your flexibility and range of motion. Stretching helps to give your mind a mental break and improves posture. Far too many of us are addicted to our computers either from work or pleasure and this constant sitting posture brings tension to the neck and shoulders. We know that stretching increases blood flow to muscles and ligaments which is an important factor in reducing injury.
- Stretching improves overall balance. Daily use of muscles can cause them to become tight. Handbags, shoulder bags, back packs all put stress on specific muscles and cause our posture to become out of alignment. Stretching helps to alleviate muscle tightness which in turns reduces risks of falling. This is especially important for seniors.
- In order for stretching to be effective, it needs to be done right. Begin the stretch and hold it until you reach the first point of resistance. Visualize the stretch making your muscle and tissue more supple and breathe your way through it. But don’t aim for pain. If it hurts, you have gone too far. You ARE getting more flexible as you stretch.
- As you stretch, strive for symmetry. When you stretch your left leg or back, repeat the stretch on the right side. Our bodies are built quite symmetrically and you need to make sure you stretch both sides. Remember that fundamentally, stretching is a basic and normal activity that we do all day long without being consciously aware of it.
- Focus on your core body! For aging seniors, there is always a concern about legs and hips and keeping healthy bones for flexibility. It has been proven that stretching helps seniors to remain independent and stronger.
- Stretch your mind! It is easy to convince ourselves that we “can’t do that” but in most cases we can. It is important to identify your own personal limits but most of us are capable of doing more than we think we can. We have to tell ourselves we CAN.
So, when you wake up in the morning and are still lying in bed, give the body a good stretch and continue to do so throughout the day. Your body will love you for it!