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February 2015

The Value of Stretching

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Stretching is important for everyone. It makes no difference if you exercise regularly or do no exercise. Within our muscles there is connective tissue and there is connective tissue that surrounds our muscle in some instances. One of the properties of connective tissue is its elasticity. Some people at a young age can touch their toes and others can’t. This is because the elasticity within connective tissue will vary from person to person.

But no matter who you are, one of the impacts of aging is the loss of elasticity within the connective tissue. Some who are in their 50’s and 60’s know what this is. It is not just a matter of losing your ability to touch your toes but it is a functional issue. It is more difficult to do your job, do your daily chores and tie your shoes because it is more difficult to bend (low back is tighter as well as the back of the thighs or the hamstrings). Getting down on the floor and then getting back up is more difficult because of the loss of elasticity in the connective tissue in addition to the loss of strength.

The good news is that stretching on a regular basis will slow the loss of elasticity of the connective tissue. Stretching can be done by everyone and should be done daily if possible. Stretching, either on a mat or from a chair, should be done in a slow sustained manner where every stretch is held 15-20 seconds and then slowly released. Ideally each stretch should be done 2-3 times. Remember never to bounce or move too quickly when stretching.

We have covered basic stretches for all parts of the body in several of last year’s newsletters, and there is a wealth of information on reputable websites that detail instructions for additional ways to stretch.

Most people who exercise regularly know the value of stretching but many do not stretch following their workout routine. They merely head to the locker room, shower, get dressed and leave. This is a big mistake. Following a workout routine, the muscles are warm and this is an ideal time to stretch which adds to the “cool down” following a workout. Among other things, stretching following a workout helps alleviate muscle stiffness and soreness and increases your range of motion.

The next time you have a few extra minutes to spare consider adding some stretching to your day!

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