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Stretching FAQ

Posted Feb 02 2009 10:44pm
I never stretch. Why bother?
Stretching makes you younger! Stretching helps keep your heart healthy, your blood pressure down, your mind sharp, your temper cool, and helps you lose weight by balancing your stress hormones.

Yes, Ma’am! But what stretches should I do?

You should stretch your spinal column, your legs and your shoulder girdle/neck area every day. There are dozens of ways to stretch these muscles, but the basic technique is the same: Move to the point of resistance (NOT pain), take a deep breath, and melt into the stretch as you exhale. Continue to breathe as you hold the stretch for about 30 seconds.

Wait a second . . . did you say “every day?” Who has time for that?

You do. You can stretch your entire body in as little as five minutes a day, and it’ll do you a world of good. Five minutes at bedtime can mean the difference between 8 hours of solid, healthy sleep or a night of tossing, turning and battering your pillows in an effort to get comfortable—now who has time for that?

I’m sorry, but I just can’t abide sitting around doing nothing!

Yeah, it seems like that, doesn’t it—which is why people injure themselves when they stretch: They bounce and jounce because they are antsy or because they learned “old school” stretch techniques. Some force themselves to stretch as far as they can reach. Overstretching causes your muscles to retract reflexively in order to protect themselves. This reflex tears the muscle. Doing it wrong in order to be “doing something” will leave you worse off than before.

Fine, so I should stretch. But I’m not getting a skimpy top and a yoga mat . . .

Stretching is the cheapest of the fitness modalities—the only requirement is that your clothes not get in your way (so if you are at home, just take ‘em off!) No shoes, no tools necessary. You can stretch at your desk, at your table, in front of your TV, while lying in bed. As long as you move slowly and melt into the stretches, you won’t injure yourself. At the end of the day or at the end of exercise is best—warm muscles, like warm taffy, stretch better. Cold muscles (like cold, hard taffy) can tear.

(P.S.--FREE chair-based yoga/stretching today in Walton at the Senior Center, 9:30a, 40 N Main St. And no, you do not have to be a "senior" to come!)
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