By PT Dane Paterson
Why stretching is so important and when it should be performed?
As our bodies age we reduce range of motion in joints and muscles mobility. Simple things in life such as putting a shirt on, lifting things from the floor, hoping in and out of the car can all become very difficult if correct application of stretching isn’t performed on the regular basis. Fitness exercises in particular can become very challenging if you don’t work on your flexibility. Regular stretching will ease performing your daily activities and make them more enjoyable. Additionally daily stretching will provide your body with extra benefits such as:
- Pain relief
- Improved blood circulation and cell rejuvenation by (delivering nutrients to our cells and removing waste by-products)
- Increase in energy levels
- Lengthening of muscles
- Increase range of motion in joints
- Relieve stress and relax the body: a sense of well-being and relief from tension is felt from relaxation
- Improve muscle coordination and balance
- Improve posture: poor posture can affect the functioning of your internal organs and appearance due to tight and tense muscles. Keeping the back in better alignment and improving the posture can be done by stretching the muscles in the lower back, shoulders and chest.
- Reduces and/or prevents lower back pain: achieved by creating greater flexibility and range of motion in the hamstring and hip and pelvis muscles as it reduces stress on the spine lower back
Different types of stretching and their application:
Stretching should be included in your fitness routine as part of warm up and cool down exercises. Prior to performing stretching, please ensure that your body is warmed up. For that you can take a short ( 10 minutes) bike ride or run starting at a slow and progressing into a faster pace to allow body muscles to warm up. The following are recommended stretch types and their best application:
- Dynamic: It should ideally be done before exercising as it’s a continuous movement, which prepares the muscles for the exercise ahead and should be done for about 5-10 minutes targeting the different muscles that are going to be used. (e.g. high jumper doing high knees)
- Static: It should ideally be done after a workout as it is stretching the specific muscle group to its maximal point. To maintain flexibility with static stretching a hold of 30 seconds per stretch should be done and to improve your flexibility a hold of 60 seconds or more is suggested. (e.g. touching toes for a hamstring stretch)
- Ballistic: are stretches that use repeated bouncing to target the muscle group. Although, not recommended unless an allied health professional has given instruction and guidance to perform ballistic stretching as it can increase risk of injury, it can be performed in low velocity to high velocity.
- PNF or Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation: is an advanced form of stretching which should only be done with specific training as it involves both stretching and contracting of the muscle group with an increase range of motion of the areas being targeted. Knowing the correct timing and technique is important as it can cause injury if it’s not done correctly but it’s a very effective stretching technique for tightness and rehabilitation.
Continuing with this topic, Foam rolling is next on the agenda. I’ll give you some information about foam rolling and the many benefits it produces.