Health Benefits of Stretching by Susan Hoffman – Stretching is deﬁned in the Oxford Dictionary as follows: to draw out or extend oneself (body, limbs, wings, etc.) to the full extent; to stretch oneself out on the ground. Do you feel tightness or soreness after a long walk, bike ride or simply sitting in the car on a long road trip? Stretching can help.
As a dancer, athlete or body worker, stretching is likely part of your practice. If you are a weekend warrior, couch potato or oﬃce chair surfer, stretching oﬀers many beneﬁts for your health and sense of wellness. Increased ﬂexibility, blood ﬂow, lymphatic ﬂuid movement, and release of connective tissue or fascia are some of the specific beneﬁts of a stretching protocol. Those annoying aches and pains begin to disappear as long as we are consistent in stretching regularly.
The act of stretching is part of Yoga, Pilates, dancing, tennis, golf, hiking, horseback riding, standup paddle boarding, and walking. It’s wise to do light stretching before and after you enjoy these healthy and fun activities. Just a few minutes can make a big difference and help you stay active longer.
Our focus should be on good form, keeping our body stable, and a gentle continuous motion for each stretch. Adding a bounce as part of stretching is no longer considered beneﬁcial. It can actually be detrimental. We all have different capacities for stretching based on our age, experience and current level of fitness. Pushing our current range of motion too much can cause micro tears in tissue or something more serious. Begin slowly and build your range of motion for each stretch over a period of time.
Consult your healthcare provider before beginning any body work program. Stretching muscles along with tendons, ligaments and connective tissue will go a long way to improving your overall health and quality of life.
A good starting point for adults just starting a stretching program is to do some basic stretches while sitting on your bed with your feet flat on the ﬂoor. Sit up straight and slowly rotate your entire torso to one side and then back to the other side. Flex and extend through the ankle, gently circling your feet. Lift, lower and separate your toes. Give your body a warm up after you have been lying in bed for hours.
Remember, life is movement and our motion is the lotion!
Susan Hoffman is a Fascial Stretch Therapist (FST) who teaches Pilates at the Englewood Pilates Center. Contact her at 480-266-5152; visit her website at EnglewoodPilatesCenter.com.