Stretching is often overlooked, as the results are not as easily visible compared to weight lifting and squatting. What some people might not realize is that the muscles actually shorten while weight training, and stretching relieves the muscle from all the tension.
People are often under the impression that stretching exercises are only for athletes preparing to run a 100m race or warming up for a rugby game, however stretching is beneficial for everyone including kids, office-workers and housewives. Stretching is also a form of physical exercise in which a specific muscle, muscle group or tendon is intentionally loosened or stretched to impose muscle elasticity and better muscle tone before performing such activities. Some of the benefits related to stretching include, better control on muscles, increase of flexibility and range of motion and stress relief. Studies also confirm that stretching prevents or alleviates muscle cramps or pains. It also improves blood circulation and increase nutrient supply to various parts of the muscles in the body, this happens to get rid of all the waste byproducts.
There are two common stretching exercises: Dynamic and Static stretching.
Dynamic stretching is highly recommended before any physical activities, such as training for sports, it involves low intensity movements that are closely related or resemble what the body would be doing while performing the actual activity.
Stretching before an activity is advised because of the following reasons. It increases the heart rate, body temperature and wakes up the nervous system, which basically makes the brain communicate or send signals to the muscles and prepare the body for takeoff. This will decrease the tension around the muscles by elongating the muscle and promoting blood circulation that will assist in relieving the stiffness around the joints too.
Static stretching involves the body to be held in one place and just reach for the point of tension then hold it for a few seconds to a few minutes. This is best performed after activities, which is good for cooling down the muscles and still for the same premise of good circulation and avoiding too much tension on muscles and soreness.
Stretching is vital for children too. During the first year of your baby’s life you will have to help your babies muscles develop, this could be done by making use of tummy time, stretching during play-time, etc. As our kids get older stretches could prevent injuries in the playground, and it makes them aware of the importance of a balanced lifestyle from an early age.
Stretching should be done at least 2 days per week, but is best if done every day. The over-all principle for stretching is to prevent injuries and performance enhancement not just for the sake of sports but for day to day living as well.
We always show our patients at Emirates European Medical Centre how to stretch to heal quicker to get back in shape. Stretching forms part of all our rehab programs, we believe that it equips the patient with the right tools to recover completely, and to strengthen the muscles or tendons so they don’t have to deal with a reoccurring injury.
Monica Laine DG. Gonzales, PTRP