21 Oct Bliss of stretching
Feeling stiff? I love my morning stretches, to help loosen up overnight stiffness. Getting my spine unbent, standing with legs apart and arms stretched high, moving the head and neck around, loosening face muscles – it all seems to wake up my brain, too!
Benefits of stretching
Tight muscles can pull joints out of alignment, which causes pain and limits mobility. Stretching helps to release muscle tension, which better aligns joints and frees up movements, to make your daily activities more fluid and free.
Stretching also promotes greater body awareness, and a better connection between mind and body. Once you start doing some stretches, your mind will probably notice a sense of greater freedom of movement in your body, which will hopefully encourage you to keep up a stretching program.
Anytime, anywhere stretches
It’s easy to incorporate some stretching into your daily activities. Anytime you’re sitting, you could do some foot and ankle stretches.
Standing around waiting for someone or something? You might stretch a leg out sideways to give the inner thigh a stretch, or place a leg behind you to stretch your calf muscles or the front of your hip joint.
If you have to reach something from a high shelf, try reaching with the arm you don’t usually use for reaching up.
How to stretch
Progress slowly and gently. Listen to your body. Stretching should not cause pain. A good stretch begins with a feeling of a moderate stretch. After 7 to 10 seconds, the stretch feeling should start to ease up, and after about 15 seconds, it should just feel normal. Hold the stretch for another 15 seconds, for a total stretch time of 30 seconds.
If you’ve never done a stretching program, it’s best to attend a class to get instruction about how best to position various body parts to stretch safely and effectively.
When not to stretch
Don’t stretch a joint if it’s infected or inflamed; if you’ve had a recent fracture, sprain, or strain; if you have joint pain; or if you have, or suspect you have, osteoporosis or osteopenia without speaking to your doctor first.
This information is provided for educational purposes only.
Reference: Stretching for 50+, Core strengthening for 50+. 2004. Dr. Karl Knopf. Ulysses Press, Berkeley, CA. 126 pp.