Stretching for Good Healthcare

Gentle stretching before a workout or work day can go a long way in preventing injuries. Some of the important benefits from stretching are: reduced muscle tension, increased range of movement in the joints, enhanced muscular coordination, increased circulation of the blood to various body parts, and increased energy levels.

Stretching keeps muscles flexible and healthy to maintain joint motion. Without it, muscles shorten and become tight, making bodies more prone to injury when being called into certain activities such as lifting, twisting, carrying, or reaching. 

Many people feel they do not have the time to improve fitness. Stretching should be a part of your daily routine, whether you exercise or not. It can be done in small increments throughout the day. You can stretch before getting out of bed, waiting for your coffee to brew, or even standing in line at the grocery store. It can be done anywhere at any time.

Stress can cause muscles to contract, leaving you feeling tense and uneasy. Stretching aids in the release of endorphins, a natural body substance that helps you feel joy, serenity, and can help reduce stress levels. Stretching can also be a great way to break the mid-afternoon fatigue syndrome. When we feel lethargic, our muscles tighten. Taking an afternoon stretch break will loosen muscles; helping to combat that tired, worn out feeling. 

Stretching can also improve posture.Tight muscles can pull parts of your body from their intended positions. Keeping your muscles stretched and loose, especially through the back and torso, can help alleviate pain, headaches, and allow you to stand taller. Stretching increases blood flow to your muscles to help reduce post-exercise soreness, recovery time, and improve overall health. 

Be sure to warm up for about 5-10 minutes with a low intensity exercise, such as jogging in place, walking, or jumping jacks. Focus on your major muscle groups: calves, thighs, hips, back, shoulders, and neck. Make sure to stretch both sides. Stretch with a smooth movement without bouncing and hold for approximately 30-60 seconds. You should feel tension, but not pain. 
Last, but not least, try thinking of stretching as a special time for quiet, relaxation, meditation, or time to yourself.

Most of us feel too busy to make time for ourselves. Remember, stretching can relax, revive, and refresh our bodies. Knowing you are doing something good for your body is the first line of defense in overall good healthcare. 

Jane is a Licensed Physical Therapist Assistant at our Holt Clinic and can be reached at: janepta@orsmi.com.