You’ve probably heard all about how important stretching is after a workout, but did you know there are tonnes of additional reasons why we all should incorporate light stretches into our daily routines?
THE FEELING of a good stretch is one of life’s most simple pleasures. Whether it’s loosening up a well-worked muscle after exercise or stretching out after a good night’s sleep, there’s no feeling quite like the release of a stretch. But, according to aged care physiotherapist and member of the Australian Physiotherapy Association Jennie Hewitt, stretching does a lot more than simply making you feel good – and there are plenty of reasons why it should be part of your day, regardless of your age or mobility.
“As we age, muscles and tendons decrease their elasticity which may result in reduced flexibility and increased risk of injury,” Jennie explains. “Muscular stretching can help to maintain range of motion in joints, mobility and physical independence.”
Our bodies are made to move. Jennie explains that a sedentary lifestyle can lead to muscle and joint tightness, so even if you don’t exercise in any other way, stretching is worth considering. On the flipside, if you are more active or carry out regular exercise, stretching may help you participate for longer.
“Like all exercise, there are safe and unsafe ways to stretch. You should stretch only until you feel a gentle pulling sensation in the relevant muscle group,” says Jennie. “For optimal results, hold the position for 30 seconds, then rest, then repeat. Of course, we want balance – so if you stretch one side of the body, also stretch the other.”
Daily stretching doesn’t necessarily mean setting aside a block of time every day. You can gently stretch your neck muscles while letting warm water beat down on your neck in the shower, or stop for a moment while climbing the stairs to stretch your calf
muscles. Our personal favourite? You can ease your lower back into the day by stretching for a short while before you get out of bed in the mornings. Just 5-10 minutes every day can help, says Jennie.
“Stretching should feel good, not painful,” Jennie says. “If you have an injury or persistent pain you need specific advice about which stretches are suitable for you. A comprehensive assessment by your physiotherapist will provide you with a personalised
and safe stretching program.”
Keep on stretching
1. Gentle stretching can improve your circulation and a steady blood flow helps reduce muscle tension and soreness.
2. Work only within your pain-free threshold. If you experience pain, stop and seek advice.
3. Lie, sit or hold on to something, to ensure you are safe while performing your stretches.
4. Prevent boredom. Add variety to your routine by increasing your stretching repertoire. For example, you could join a yoga class. Most Palm Lake Resorts offer on-site yoga classes and even chair yoga classes for those with more limited range.