As we age our muscles can become tighter and less flexible. This can impact our everyday lives and lead to possible injuries. We can make a tremendous impact on our flexibility by giving proper attention to our muscles.
Stretching regularly for 5-10 minutes a day can significantly improve our range of motion and flexibility. It is important that our body is warm before stretching. A short walk, jogging in place or jumping jacks for a few minutes are all good ways to warm up the body. Different types of stretching activities you may want to consider are yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi. You can also find a variety of stretches available on the internet, but it is best to consult a local fitness expert to be sure what types of stretches are good for your individual needs.
Whatever stretching activity you choose, be sure to address each major muscle group: the neck, shoulders, lower back, hips, front and back of legs, and calves. Stretching should always be performed in slow gradual movements and never bounce while stretching. Hold your stretch for up to 30 seconds and remember to breathe, exhaling as you lengthen the muscle. You should never feel pain when you stretch, but there should be a feeling of slight tension. If you experience any pain, you are most likely stretching too far. In this situation back off of the stretch a bit to allow the muscle to be more comfortable.
There are many benefits to stretching. Stretching can:
Help prevent injuries from everyday movements such as bending over, standing up, lifting an object or child, etc.
Improve circulation and blood flow
Reduce stress and tension on the body
Improve range of motion in the joints (which can enhance sports/exercise performance)
Allow for better posture
Help prevent or reduce back pain
Diet can also impact flexibility. Staying away from alcohol, salt, and junk food, as well as fatty and sugary snacks is important. These unhealthy foods can contribute to dehydration and have a negative impact on your flexibility. Fresh fruits, vegetables, and adequate amounts of water all contribute to hydrating the body and positively impacting your flexibility. Proper amounts of sleep are also essential for improved flexibility.
Stretching can be beneficial at all ages and is essential to overall health. Spend some time with your children and teach them the importance of a flexible body and a healthy lifestyle.
*Please consult with your doctor before starting any new activity.