Stretching Regime to Feel Younger
Stretching has numerous benefits, including flexibility and (if done properly) general, posture-related ache and pain relief – all of which makes you feel younger! Keep reading for a sample stretching regime and key stretching tips to avoid any potential injury.
If you’re of the more youthful persuasion, please continue reading… Although stretching has the most immediate benefits for more “seasoned” adults, you will benefit from the tips we provide here. Plus, it’s good to be aware of what you’ll be facing in later years, so you can keep stretching and feel younger longer.
(Read Think “Prehab” Instead of Rehab for reasons to stay ahead of the aging game.)
Today’s article was inspired by our recent Warm Up Your Winter with Stretching post (which explained the importance of stretching, especially in the cold seasons and for those 50+). We couldn’t leave you with the knowledge of how stretching improves your overall health and quality of life without giving you a regime to try out!
Key Stretching Tips
Have you or someone you know suddenly experience a painful and serious injury just from picking up a pen or doing laundry? Outside of a past traumatic incident, these types of weird scenarios happen from years of having tight hips and back muscles (usually do to poor posture and physical neglect).
If you’re ready to avoid potential future injury or injury incurred from improper stretching, here are the 3 key stretching tips you need to know:
- Muscles need to be warm. Imagine your muscles are pieces of gum. When gum is dry and cold, it’s hard and holds it’s shape; it takes a good deal of pressure and massage to alter it’s shape under these conditions. Place the gum in a warm, wet environment, however, and it’s extremely pliable. (Remember how fun bubble gum was as a kid?) Warm up by good, old-fashioned moving around and getting the blood pumping, or with a warm shower.
- Hold for at least 30 seconds. Did you know that if you stretch for less than 10 seconds, your muscle gets tighter which increases the risk of injury? It’s because our body has a protective mechanism called the golgi tendon reflex which controls the tension of an active muscle in order to protect it from damage from over-tension. After 30 seconds, our protective nerves shut off and the muscle relaxes. (This is why you can always go deeper into a stretch the longer you hold it.) The brain needs this time to register that a stretch is occurring.
- Stretch in a lax position whenever possible. This means lying down or sitting… when your body is relaxed (meaning you’re using as little muscle as possible), you’re more pliable and able to stretch more efficiently. This is why assisted stretching is the best type of stretch (click this link for more).
If you experience an injury and try to stretch it out (especially for 10 seconds or less), and you go into spasms, it’s because your protective nerves are firing off in attempt to further protect you from more damage. At this point we recommend a visit to your family doctor who may also refer you to a physiotherapist.
Sample Stretching Regime
Here are 4 main stretches that target the entire body:
- Hamstring Stretch. Standing in front of a chair or bench about hip height, place one of your legs straight out with your heel resting on the support. Flex your foot, toes towards your face. Straight back, chest up with good posture, slowly lower your upper body toward your out-stretched, elevated leg. Hold for 30+ seconds and repeat with the other leg.
- Quad & Hip Flexor Stretch. From the floor, you kneel on one leg with the other in front of you, foot on the ground, knees bent (like you were proposing) at a 90 degree angles. With good posture, hips forward slightly, hands on the top of your thigh, shift the entire body forward. You should feel it in the front of the hip and upper thigh of the leg with the knee touching the mat. Hold for 30+ seconds and change up sides.
- Chest Stretch. Poor posture leads to tight chest and neck muscles, eventually pulling them in towards the front of the body and creating a hunched posture. To correct this, you want to lengthen those tight chest muscles. Stand in front of a wall or doorway with one of your arms out-stretched, shoulder height. Keep your shoulder away from your ear and turn your body so that you feel a slight stretch in your pectoral muscles. Hold for 30+ seconds and repeat on the other side.
- Hip & Glute Stretch. You can do this stretch seated, lying down or standing (though remember the more lax the position, the better). Place one of your feet on the opposite knee, creating a “4” shape out of your legs. Keep your back straight, proper posture, and pull your figure-4 closer to your chest. If done correctly, you should feel a stretch in the glute and hip of the crossed leg. Hold for 30+ seconds and switch legs.
When and how often should you follow this stretching regime to feel younger? As often as your body tells you to! For those who are tight and inflexible, try this regime for a few minutes every day and see how you feel after a week. And remember to follow our key stretching tips!
Do you have any favourite stretches you like to do consistently?