Stretching, flexibility, what’s that? You ask,
Alas, “it is a long forgotten ancient ritual practiced by Tibetan monks for centuries.” Well not really but it did sound rather good I thought when I first wrote it.
It is in fact the thing we are least likely to do when we go to the gym but possibly one of the most important features of our workout. Everybody can benefit from stretching. There are no age limits on this one. Stretching benefits include:
- Prevention of injuries
- Better range of movement
- Improved muscle appearance
- It results in far less muscle pulling over extension injuries
- It invigorates the circulatory respiratory and neuromuscular systems
- Prevention of postural problems
- Helps prevent overuse injuries occurring
- Allows for better quality of life through better movement with less restriction
Try to stretch everyday if possible. Make sure you are warm whether by a passive warm up (via the sauna or hot shower) or some light exercise to raise your body temperature. In winter it may take a little longer to get warm. Consult with your local gym about full body stretches and make sure they show you exactly what to do.
Stretching is ideal for people who have poor flexibility or muscle and joint problems. Those people who suffer with low (lumbar) back pain can receive a great deal of relief from stretching of the hamstrings. About 80% of low pack pain is due to poor abdominal strength along with very tight hamstrings. It is now hypothesized that the muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints are more adaptable and responsive to flexibility exercises when they are done after the endurance conditioning phase of exercise.
Ask your gym if they have Yoga! It is often a fun way to stretch and receive all the worthwhile benefits.
Pilates is also an exercise program designed to condition andcorrect muscle imbalances, improve posture and tone the body.