It’s not enough to build muscle and get aerobic fitness. You also need to think about flexibility.
You might think that stretching can only be done by runners or gymnasts. But to protect our mobility and independence, we all need to work hard. “A lot of people don’t understand that stretching has to happen on a regular basis, every day,” said David Nolan, a physical therapist at harvard’s Massachusetts general hospital.
Why is this important?
Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong and healthy, and we need this flexibility to keep the joints moving. Without it, the muscle will shorten and become tense. Then, when you call for muscle activity, they are weak and can’t last. This puts you at risk for joint pain, tension and muscle damage.
For example, sitting in a chair all day can cause tension in the back of the thigh. This may extend the leg straightening or straighten the knee, which may hinder walking. Similarly, when nervous muscles are suddenly required to stretch their strenuous activities, such as tennis, they may be damaged by sudden stretching. The injured muscle may not be sufficient to support the joint, which may cause joint damage.
Regular stretching keeps the muscles long, lean and flexible, meaning that exercise “doesn’t exert too much power on the muscle itself,” says Nolan. Healthy muscles can also help people with balance problems avoid falling.
Where to start
Your body is full of muscles, and the idea of daily stretching may seem overwhelming. But Nolan says you don’t have to stretch every muscle. “The key area of liquidity is in your lower extremities: your calves, your hamstrings, your hip flexors in front of the pelvis and quadriceps.” Stretching your shoulders, neck and waist are also helpful. Plan to extend daily or at least three or four times a week.
Find a physical therapist (your local Y is a good place to start), they can assess your muscle strength, and tailor your stretch to fit your needs. If you have a chronic condition like Parkinson’s disease or arthritis, you need to work with your doctor to clear out the new stretch before you start.
The cumulative effect of stretching.
Stretching today will not magically give you perfect flexibility. You need to work on this process over time. David Nolan, a physical therapist at Massachusetts general hospital, said: “it may take months to get tense muscles, so you won’t be fully flexible once or twice. “It takes weeks and months to become flexible and you have to keep working to keep it going.
The hamstring stretch keeps the muscles in the back of the thigh soft. Sit on the ground with your legs in front of you. Slide your hands down until you feel the heat. Hold for 30 seconds, then slowly return to your sitting position.
We used to believe that stretching is necessary to build muscle and prepare for it. However, a growing body of research suggests that stretching muscles before warming up may actually hurt them. “When everything is cold, fiber is not ready, and might be damaged, if you first action, there will be blood flow to the area, which makes the organization become more soft and easy to change,” Nolan said. All muscles that need to warm up before stretching require 5-10 minutes of mild activity, such as brisk walking. You can also exercise after cardio or weight training.
Hold for 30 seconds. Don’t bounce back, which can lead to injury. You’ll be nervous for a while, but you shouldn’t feel pain. If done, the organization may be injured or damaged. Stop stretching and talk to your doctor.