Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Why Stretch?

Stretching. What do you think of when I say that? Yawn; a waste of time?

Guess what -- flexibility is one of thecomponents of fitness. Yep, it's true. It's just as important to stretch as it is to work the heart & strengthen the muscles.

As a trainer, I've worked with a lot of people that thought stretching wasn't important. Some need a little convincing, but in the end they all agree how much better they feel afterwards.

A general relaxed feeling isn't the only benefit. Here are 3 of the many benefits of regular flexibility work:

1. Improved muscular balance. Balanced muscles will help your body feel better and reduce injury.

2. Reduced risk of injury. Including exercise related injury AND injuries in daily activity. For example, if you have tight/stiff hamstrings and you trip, you're more likely to injure yourself as you try to catch your balance. (Picture what happens when an elderly person falls with stiff muscles -- not good.)

3. Improved performance in sport related activities. If you're a runner or walker, or whatever your chosen mode of exercise, stretch! You just may see an improvement.

Guidelines for stretching:

1. ALWAYS warm up before you stretch. The easiest way, do it after you exercise.

2. Stretch all major muscle groups. Pay particular attention to tight muscles.

3. Hold the stretch 15-30 seconds.

4. Stretch until a level of discomfort but not pain.

5. Stretch at least 3 times per week. Every day is even better!

Don't forget, as we age our tissues stiffen and get tighter. That's why you sometimes see elderly people taking small shuffle like steps. We can fight that and make true progress in the opposite direction simple by stretching.

So the next time you workout, don't forget to spend a few minutes at the end to be good to your muscles, tendons and ligaments. You'll thank me later!

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