No doubt you know the benefits if exercise or you would not be reading this.
But if you want exercise to keep you moving like you did when you were a kid- you must stretch.
You see, exercise does a great job of increasing blood flow, building muscle and burning calories. But stretching is what we do for the connective tissue to keep it healthy and strong.
AN ALARMING FACT
For most of us our flexibility will diminish by more than 50% as we age. Yikes! This means your gait will likely get shorter, your posture will suffer, and simple movements will become more difficult- like putting on your shoes or picking things up off the ground. But does it have to happen?
WHY YOU BECOME LESS FLEXIBLE
When you have been on this planet for more than a couple of decades, you begin to see the results of muscle imbalances, overuse, faulty movement patterns and injuries in your flexibility. In fact, all of these things can cause muscles to tighten and become resistant to what you probably think of as normal movement- walking, stooping and bending. Because it becomes more difficult, we tend to avoid those motions that cause us trouble. But as they say- if you don’t use it- you lose it.
THIS IS PARTICULARLY TRUE WITH FLEXIBILITY.
As we limit movement our bodies no longer sense the need to preserve the ability to stretch. Tendons and ligaments stiffen and the collagen that they are made of deteriorates. Without challenges to this connective tissue, there is no need for the cellular repair work or nutrients, so blood flow is diminished.
SOME STRETCHES TO TRY
Spread the arms wide. Extend the
hands and slowly rotate the arms
so that the thumbs are moving
from pointing to the ceiling to
pointing toward the floor.
Lift your arm, to touch the opposite
shoulder behind your head. Grab
that elbow with your other hand
and ease it back until the elbow
points at the ceiling.
Bicep and Wrist Stretch
Extend the arm with the elbow up
and grab the fingers bringing them
down to flex at the wrist. Rotate the
hand and again grab the fingers to
flex in the opposite direction.
Ideally this is done standing and
grabbing your foot. Bend one
knee to grab your foot behind you.
Hold on to something if balancing
is a challenge.
Place both hands on a wall. Stagger the feet. Bend
the front leg slightly. Do not allow the knee to
extend beyond the toe. Straighten the back leg
and stretch the heel until it is flat.
Seated Glute Stretch (Figure4)
Sit straight on a sturdy chair, box or bench. Cross
one leg. The ankle should rest on the opposite
knee. Place one hand gently on the bent leg to
stretch out to the side.
Inner Thigh Stretch
Sit on the edge of a chair, bench, or
box. Take legs as wide as possible
with toes pointing out. Place a hand
on each knee. Without moving
knees beyond toes, drop shoulders
one at at time to press thighs open.