Benefits of Stretching As We Get Older

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Stretch Yourself – As we age, our muscles and joints start to deteriorate. Muscles become stiff, tire faster, and move slowly, while joints become stiff, painful, and often swollen.

Flexibility and freedom of movement can be restricted and the risk of injury is greatly increased. These changes are more noticeable when lying or sitting for a long time. While it’s normal for someone who has no previous injuries or illnesses that cause muscle stiffness, living with these types of ailments isn’t fun.

So how can we counteract this natural occurrence of the aging process?

Well, the first step is to stay active. “A body in motion stays in motion” is so true, especially when it comes to flexibility. Fitness classes, dance classes, walking, yoga, swimming, and recreational games are great ways to get your body moving while having some socializing. Many of these activities are conveniently available in our area and are great for avoiding rigidity.

While we are staying active and moving our bodies, post-exercise stretching is incredibly effective at loosening muscles and helping recovery. The simple exercise of stretching is important to improve overall muscle, ligament, and joint health, flexibility, and freedom of movement, among other things. For example, stretching can help you relax physically and mentally, improve muscle strength and endurance, combat fatigue, relieve pain, and prevent injuries, while improving posture and awareness.

Static elongation

While there are several different stretching methods, the most common is static stretching. The main purpose of this method is to keep the body in good general health, shape, and flexibility, and it is perfect for anyone looking to incorporate stretching into their daily routine. The basic principle of a static stretching program is to slowly stretch the muscles to a maximum length with small movements, hold this position for 15-20 seconds, relax the muscle, and then repeat the exercise 2-3 more times.

There is minimal risk involved in performing a static stretching routine, but there are a few things to consider before starting these exercises:

  1. Warm Up Before Stretching – Stretching cold muscles can cause injury. So be sure to take a 5-10 minute walk or some other light exercise to get your muscles ready to move.
  2. Don’t Overstretch – Forcing your muscles to go further than they are right now can strain or tear muscle fibers. Just stretch until you feel the muscle “catch” and hold this position. It can be a little uncomfortable, but it should never be painful.
  3. Slow and steady – When you slowly get your muscles into the stretched position, they can really loosen and lengthen. You should never “hop” or move quickly to get your muscles into the desired position.
  4. Hold It – Once in position, hold this stretch for at least 15 seconds. It takes so long for your muscles to relax and get into the work you ask them to do. You can hold a stretch longer, but be careful with muscle fatigue.
  5. Breathe – never hold your breath. Holding your breath creates tension in your body and will counter the benefits of what you are trying to achieve. Breathe in slowly and rhythmically through your nose and out through your mouth to keep your body relaxed and your mind focused.

Loss of freedom of movement and flexibility doesn’t have to be part of your aging process. Many of our gyms and fitness studios offer classes and activities to improve your freedom of movement and flexibility. A quick search on the internet will also find many different books and articles on specific stretching exercises and programs to suit any lifestyle or need. So get out there and take responsibility for your body. And if you see me stretching after a good run, feel free to say “Hello!”

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