Weekly Wellness: Stretching Vital to Wellness
COLUMBIA -So many magazines and media sources stress the importance of "exercise and nutrition" on a daily (practically hourly) basis. I would love to see stretching also included in this "life's necessary to-do list".
Stretching can be just as important as exercise. They go hand-in-hand. Let's see if we can motivate you to include stretching in your regular wellness routine.
Maybe you didn't realize that stretching:
- Helps improve flexibility; increases range of motion
- Helps to correct posture by lengthening the muscles that can pull areas of your body out of alignment
- Helps to prepare the muscles for work before activity (which can prevent injury)
- Helps to reduce muscle soreness
- Helps to calm your mind; can provide a mental break
- Helps to relieve both physical and mental tension
Here is a simple guide to stretching:
No pre-workout stretching. Muscles need to be warm before doing any long static stretching, so focus on dynamic warm up before a workout and plan on doing your long-hold stretching after your workout is complete.
Focus your stretching where it is most needed. Instead of trying to perform total body stretching, pay attention to your body's needs and focus on the muscles that are tight.
Try to incorporate one long-duration stretching session weekly.
Investigate available classes (such as yoga, hot yoga or pilates) in your area or create a flexibility routine that you feel comfortable performing on your own. This stretching session should be 45 - 60 minutes long.
Don't overstretch. Once your muscles are warm (i.e. you've completed at least 3 - 5 minutes of activity), stretching exercises should be held for a duration of 12 - 15 seconds.
Some stretches can be held for up to a minute (depending upon the muscle group and intensity). Hold the stretch at a level of mild tension/tightness, not to the point of pain.
Do NOT stretch in the following circumstances: after a sprain or strain; if there is inflammation or an injury in the muscles or joints; after a recent fracture; or if you feel sharp pain.
The Mayo Clinic gives a great list of important stretches that can be done at home and includes instructions on how to do them properly.