Stretching may often be overlooked as part of our exercise regime or as a part of our daily lives, but the importance of flexibility is an essential part of preventing injury and in some cases enhancing athletic performance. Although research is mixed on the benefits of stretching I believe it has an important part to play in both the prevention and the rehabilitation of injuries.
Stretching can improve the range of motion in our joints, improve blood flow to muscles thus enabling the muscles the work more effectively. To avail of these benefits stretching must be done right. If done incorrectly you may be doing more harm than good. It is important to maintain a good posture and symmetry. Aim to maintain balance between right and left sides. If you play a sport, it is a good idea to stretch the muscles you use the most. Stretching should be done after a short 5-10 minute warm up or after your normal exercise regime. Ideally you want to hold a stretch for 30 seconds and do approximately 3 repetitions to improve flexibility, but you may have to hold for less time and do more repetitions if you are injured. Talk to your physiotherapist about how to stretch properly based on your specific injury.
Some basic tips about stretching:
1. Don't bounce. This can cause further injury.
2. Hold your stretch. For 30 seconds if you are able.
3. Don't go into your pain. Stop and hold before pain.
4. Keep it up! The only way to maintain improvements is to continue regularly.
Many injuries today are based on sustained postures, often in sitting. To prevent many of the repetitive strain injuries it is important to move or get into postures that oppose the sustained posture. An excellent way to do this is to bring movement into your stretching. Tai chi, yoga and classical stretch are examples of this type of exercise and may be a great way to incorporate stretching into your daily life.
Keeping your muscles moving, especially as we age is becoming more important than ever! In our sedentary world it is essential to have flexible muscles that allow your body to move and maintain the active lifestyle you desire!
By: Adrienne Sankey