STRETCH IT OUT
Stretching tips to remember
-Warm up before stretching.
-A five minute walk will increase blood flow to your muscles, warm them up, and prepare them for a stretch.
-Hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Don’t bounce.You should feel a “stretch” but no pain. If there is pain, release the stretch.
When I was a little girl, I spent nearly every weekend with my grandmother. She was my favorite person, and I wanted to be just like her. I was impressed with everything she did—from baking buttermilk biscuits to cutting the skin off an apple in one long strip.
She loved to laugh and sing along with George Jones on her AM radio. Another memory is her dedication to keeping her body healthy and flexible. So every night before we crawled into bed, she reached down to touch her toes ten times. I was so impressed. I mean she must have been 50 years old. I thought my grandmother was the only “old lady” in the world who could do something like that!
Granny innately knew a lot of things, and the importance of stretching was one of them. I think touching her toes each night was like a check light to her. As long as she could touch her toes, she knew she was still in shape and aging as gracefully as possible. And she was right. Stretching is an important activity for all ages, but as we age, it becomes even more crucial to staying healthy and active.
Tight, un-stretched muscles, can be painful. They can also become damaged when asked to perform sudden movements as when stopping a fall or reaching awkwardly for something. Tight muscles are shorter, weaker, and unable to perform optimally. For example, tight hamstring muscles can make walking difficult.
Tight back muscles make nearly every movement painful. Regular, daily stretching can keep our muscles long and flexible. Stretching promotes mobility, which secures independence. It helps us perform everyday activities effortlessly and pain free. Stretching increases our range of motion giving us freedom to move—walk, ride bikes, and dance.
It increases blood flow to our muscles, which improves circulation. Improved circulation can help to reduce headaches and stress, while increasing calmness. Improved circulation also wards off diabetes, kidney dysfunction and heart disease.
Stretching can improve our posture. When our muscles are flexible and healthy, proper spinal alignment is attainable. When our spine is aligned, our central nervous system can perform optimally and do its job of keeping us at our healthiest state.
Increased flexibility is a pivotal element of overall health. We don’t have to become stationary as we age. A few daily stretches can go a long way toward a more pliable and healthier you. Simple stretches are a great way to begin. Sit on the floor, bend forward, and reach for your toes. While sitting at your computer, reach your arms up, bend to one side, then the other.
While standing, take one leg back for a gentle hamstring stretch. You can stretch while waiting for your microwave to finish heating up a cup of coffee or while watching a sitcom. There is no need for a big production, but as you progress and feel the benefits, you may find that a class offers direction and support.
Once you start stretching and realize how much better you feel, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without doing it. You may even become like Granny and touch your toes ten times each night before crawling into bed.