Take Time to Stretch

September 2009
Toyourhealth.com
Chelsea Cooper

Let’s face it, most people do not enjoy stretching. If you think about it, it’s probably close to the bottom of your list of priorities when you work out or do any other type of physical activity. In fact, stretching is probably the most overlooked aspect of physical fitness, and yet it is one of the most important.

As we age, our muscles tighten and range of motion in our joints decreases. This can impact even the most active lifestyle and hinder your normal day-to-day activities. Tasks that used to be simple, like zipping up a dress or reaching for a can off the top shelf, may become extremely difficult. A regular stretching program can help lengthen your muscles and make daily activities routine again.

What’s more, stretching can help eliminate or decrease low back pain, one of the most common kinds of structural pain, affecting a large percentage of the population. Muscle tightness in the quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors, and low back muscles is a common cause of low back pain. Stretching these muscles will often eliminate the pain. Keep in mind that every joint is tied to another joint, so if one muscle is tight, it is going to affect another joint or muscle.

One of the greatest benefits of stretching is that you’re able to increase your range of motion, which means your joints can move further before an injury occurs.

Safe Stretching: Four Things Not to Do

There are no disadvantages to stretching – unless, of course, you do them improperly, which is actually easy to do if you don’t know what you’re doing. Here are a few tips to keep in mind before starting any stretching program:

DON’T bounce when stretching; hold your position for the specified time.

DON’T stretch cold muscles; always do some type of warm-up for at least five minutes: jogging in place, walking on a treadmill, light jump rope, etc.

DON’T overstretch. There should be a little discomfort, especially if you’re not used to stretching, but it should not be painful.

DON’T stretch a muscle improperly. If you are not sure of the proper stretch or how to perform it, get some assistance from a professional. More…

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