Stretching IS Important
Stretching/flexibility training is often the part of the exercise program that gets forgotten or isn't seen as "important" as the strength training or the aerobic component.
This is NOT the case! Stretching is VERY important, especially as we age.
As we age, we lose elasticity in our connective tissues (tissues that connects and supports other tissues and organs in the body). When this happens, we have a considerable decrease of flexibility and range of motion.
Stretching can help prevent this decrease in flexibility and range of motion. It's recommended we stretch 2-7 times a week (ideally after every time we exercise). We can safely stretch everyday (as long as it is not too intense).
* Start by stretching the major body parts (pecs (chest), back, hips, triceps (back of the arm), quads (front of the leg), hamstrings (back of the leg) and calves.
* Aim to hold each position for 30 - 60 seconds. Start with 15-20 seconds if 30 seconds is too long. *Intensity - you should feel muscle tension (your "edge"), but you don't want to feel pain.
Don't force any movement/hold. Be patient! The more often you stretch, the more you will see an increase in your range of motion and flexibility!
WHY Stretching is Important
Stretching is the process of elongating and lengthening muscles, tendons (the connective tissue that connects muscle to bone) and fascia (the connective tissue that holds every organ, blood vessel, nerve fiber, bone and muscle in place).
It restores blood flow to the muscles, tendons and fascia. Stretching reconditions and retrains deconditioned and injured tissues and promotes soft tissue elasticity.
Stretching can help the muscles learn how to contract, lengthen, relax effectively as well as increase range of motion in muscles that have imbalances and are constricted due to injury or pain.
The following are three simple chair stretches that can be done throughout the day, no matter how flexible or inflexible you are.
The Three Simple Chair Stretches
1. Chair Downward Dog
- Start standing behind a chair
- Take 1-2 steps back
- Hinge at your hips (sticking your buttocks towards the back of the room)
- Hold your arms on the back of the chair and lower until your back, neck and arms are in as good as alignment as possible and you have no pain in your shoulders. Hold 30-60 seconds.
- This stretch is good for the back (upper and lower), shoulders, hamstrings and calves.
2. Seated Hamstring Stretch
- Sit at the top of your chair. One leg bent, the other leg straight - heel resting on the floor, toe pointed to the ceiling
- Keep the straight leg as straight as feels comfortable for you. It's ok to have a slight bend in your leg if you need it.
- Lean forward, keeping back straight and shoulders back (try not to round the upper back!)
- Lean forward as far as is needed to feel a stretch in the back of your leg (hamstrings and calf).
- Hold for 30-60 seconds.
- Repeat on other leg.
3. Seated Quad Stretch
- Sit on the side of a chair. The front knee pointed to the front of the room, the back (outside) leg stretched behind the chair, knee pointing to the floor, the back toes can either be pointed on the ground.
- Lean back slightly, and if you do not feel an opening in your hip and quad (the front of the leg - the outside leg) then stretch your leg further behind the chair until you feel your edge.
- Hold for 30-60 seconds.
- Switch legs by moving to the other side of the chair. Stretch the outside leg back behind the chair.
These are three great stretches to start improving your flexibility and range of motion.
3 Simple Chair Stretch Video