You may think of stretching as something only necessary for runners or gymnasts. Truth is we all need to stretch to protect our mobility and independence.
Stretching keeps our muscles flexible, strong, and healthy. We need that flexibility to maintain the optimal range of motion in our joints. Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight. Then when you need them for an activity, they are weak and unable to extend. That in turn puts you at risk for joint pain and strain. Healthy muscles also help us with balance problems and prevention of falls.
You do not have to stretch all 600+ muscles in your body. The most critical areas for maintaining mobility are in your lower extremities: calves, hamstrings, hip flexors, and quadriceps. Stretching your shoulders, neck and low back is also beneficial. It is recommended that you stretch, if not every day, then at least 3 times a week for the best results. You may never achieve perfect flexibility as it is a process. It could take months to get tight muscles therefore it could take months to loosen them.
It is recommended to hold each stretch for 30 seconds if possible. You will feel tension during a stretch, but you should not feel pain. Pain is an indication of injury or tissue damage.
I particularly want to encourage our male friends as men are less likely to include stretching in their exercise routine and are much less flexible as a result.
Susan Covey is the Acts Bayleigh Chase Fitness Program Manager in Easton.