Many of us start off our new year by making resolutions to become healthier. If so, be sure to include a regular stretching program as it will help you stay active and independent.
Regular exercising is an important part of a healthy and fit lifestyle, however, you may be surprised to know that stretching your body is as important an aspect of an exercise regimen than the main workout itself.
Stretching before and after an exercise is extremely essential and also something that is highly underestimated. Stretching should not be overlooked and should be an important part of your daily workout routine.
Your muscles tend to become stiff after some time, especially during the night when you sleep. Light stretching after you wake up will help you relax your muscles. Stretching before you begin your exercise will help reduce muscle tension which is one of the most common causes of back and neck pains and headaches.
The more often you stretch your muscles, the longer and more flexible they'll become. As a result, you'll increase your range of motion, reduce your risk for muscle and joint injury, reduce joint and back pain, improve your balance (reducing your risk of falling), and improve your posture.
It's a good idea to speak with your doctor before you start a stretching program, especially if you have chronic conditions that affect your muscles and joints, such as arthritis or Parkinson's disease. Your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist, who can evaluate your muscle health and tailor a stretching program to your needs.
An overall stretching program will focus on the calves, the hamstrings, the hip flexors in the pelvis, the quadriceps in the front of the thigh, and the muscles of the shoulders, neck, and lower back. Aim for a program of stretching every day or at least three or four times per week.
It's crucial to warm up the muscles before you stretch them. That means getting blood and oxygen to the tissue to make it more pliable and receptive to change. If you don't warm up, a stretch can damage the muscle fibers.