Have you ever noticed how we stretch ourselves when we have been motionless for a long time? For example how we intuitively stretch when we wake up or when we have been staring at our computers for too long. When we are inactive for some time, our muscles start getting stiff and blood flow slows down. Stretching helps loosen these muscles and increases the blood circulation, basically waking up both our mind and body. This is why we stretch as an instinct. The same logic applies to our lives in general. Stretching helps us in remaining flexible as we age. It also helps in preventing injuries. Once stretched, our muscles relax and therefore, are less prone to injuries caused by shocks and jerks which happen during physical events like exercise, sports, or even during less active activities.
Advantages of stretching:
- It reduces tension in stiff muscles. Stretching relaxes the taut muscles and loosens them up. This eliminates the muscle tension- helping you avoid injuries and tiredness.
- Stretching increases blood circulation in the stretched area. Proper blood circulation keeps our muscles nourished and waste free. It also hastens recovery in muscle tissues.
- Increased blood circulation also makes people feel more energetic and happy. Stretching gives you a quick dose of energy.
- Stretching increases the range of movement in our joints and muscles. It keeps us flexible and mobile. If you stretch regularly, you will have no problems in bending over, running or lifting things. There will be no painful muscle pulls as your muscles will be habitual to flexing.
- It corrects our posture. If you stretch your body parts regularly and maintain symmetry, your posture will improve gradually. Correct posture solves a lot of pain problems like neck pain, back pain, shoulder pain etc.
- Stretching improves our flexibility and mobility and this in turn, improves our balance. This leads to less falls and stumbles as we age.
- It acts as a stress relief. When we are stressed, our muscles become taut and tense. Stretching relaxes and loosens up these muscles, helping us let go of the stress in process.
How to stretch:
Shoulder and Upper Arms:
Shoulder and Chest:
- Stretching is not a warm up. In fact, you need to warm up by doing a little jogging or power walking before you stretch.
- Slight discomfort is acceptable, sharp pain is not. If you feel regular pain in doing any of the stretches, talk with your physiotherapist or doctor.
- Don’t bounce. It causes injuries. Instead just maintain the position for at least 30 seconds.
- Don’t hold your breath.
- Maintain symmetry while stretching. This means that stretch both left and right sides of your body.