Stretching And Bending Exercises- Beneficial To All

Bending, stretching and squatting exercises are beneficial for every age group. Maybe you are a 20, 30, 40 or 50 something weightlifter or fitness buff who wants to add more stretching to your workout routine. Or maybe you want to stretch more on your “rest day.” Perhaps you are a 50, 60, 70 something- who has heard about the benefits of exercise for years and now you want to join a gym or go on a daily walk. Keep reading because this post is for you.

If you are starting to exercise later in life, don’t be discouraged as flexibility decreases with age and physical inactivity. As we age, muscles become shorter and lose their elasticity. Regardless of your age, you can increase your flexibility by incorporating stretching into your daily routine. However, it is important to realize that aerobic fitness and strengthening are just as important if you are in your 20s or your 60s. Remember to always consult your doctor before starting a new exercise or stretching routine (for older adults).

What are the benefits of stretching? Daily stretching can improve physical performance. Increased flexibility makes it easier to perform daily tasks such as lifting, bending and turning. Stretching increases circulation and keeps tissues healthy by raising the temperature of your muscles. Lack of flexibility can lead to loss of balance, which can cause falls. A regular stretching routine can reduce injuries by helping to maintain a good range of motion.

The National Institute on Aging and the American College of Sports Medicine recommend stretching lightly before engaging in stretching and endurance activities and then stretch more thoroughly after your workout. If you are unable to perform strength or endurance exercises but are able to do stretching exercises, perform them at least three times per week for at least 20 minutes each session. Make sure to do each stretching exercise three to four times during each session. You should stretch slowly and as far as possible without pain. Hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds. Then relax and try to stretch further with each repetition. Warm up before you stretch- a bit of walking, stationary bike, jump rope should be sufficient.

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I have a friend at the gym who stretches for approximately 45 minutes before he works out. People sometimes give him a hard time- joking that he is warming up for the next day’s class. Yet he knows how his body would react to a strenuous weightlifting workout if he has not stretched properly.

It is never too late to start to get fit. The National Institutes of Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other health professionals suggest that exercise is the key to overall health for seniors and older adults. Exercises and fitness routines that are highly recommended for every age group, especially older adults are ones that build, maintain or increase balance, strength, flexibility and overall endurance.

Try this squat exercise which can be done with a chair, anywhere. Okay, well, maybe not anywhere. Maybe not on line at the bank or at Starbucks, but you get the idea. This is a great exercise for strengthening hips, thighs and buttocks.

In front of a sturdy, armless chair, stand with feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart. Then extend your arms out in front of you so they are parallel to the ground and lean forward a little at the hips. Make sure that your knees NEVER come forward past your toes.

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Lower yourself in a slow, controlled motion, to a count of four, until you reach a near-sitting position. Pause. Then to a count of two, slowly rise back up to a standing position. Keep your knees over your ankles and your back straight. Repeat ten times for one set. Rest for one to two minutes. Then complete a second set of ten repetitions. If you are unable to go all the way down, put a couple of pillows on the chair or only squat down four to six inches. Do whatever is comfortable for you. Also, placing more weight on your heels than on your toes can help you keep your knees from moving forward past your toes.

Everyday is a new beginning. Make your tomorrow a day to stretch, strengthen or get fit. “Believe you can and you’re halfway there.”- Theodore Roosevelt

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Warming Up vs. Stretching- Is There A Difference?

For first time readers, I have been publishing posts twice a week, usually on Thursdays and Sundays. One post usually relates to a healthy body (generally fitness related) and/or a healthy mind. The other post discusses healthy eating and I try to find easy, healthy recipes that real people, with real jobs, real families and real lives, will want to make. I hope that my posts are interesting and informative, such that you will come away with a new idea, a new fact learned or perhaps a question. Comments are always welcome. Please join the email list to ensure that all new posts will be automatically sent to you.

Warm up exercises and stretching are often lumped together when discussing pre-workout routines, however they are two distinct principles. For an optimal workout, both are important. When performing warm up exercises, you are increasing your body temperature and slowly preparing your body for the workout. According to the Boston Herald, “If one stretches the muscles without proper warm-up, the muscles are cold and are more prone to injury, such as a muscle tear or strain.” Warming up can be achieved through a period of running in place, jumping rope or easy pedaling on a bike. Skipping the warmup and going straight to stretching can lead to injury as your muscles need warmth to achieve optimal stretch.

When stretching, you are specifically focusing on stretching your muscles. Research has shown that range of motion can be increased by a thirty second stretch for each muscle group per day. However, this may vary for each individual and some people may need to stretch each muscle group for a longer period of time. The Mayo Clinic advises that when you are stretching, “focus on your calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck and shoulders. Also stretch muscles and joints that you routinely use at work or play. And make sure that you stretch both sides.”

An optimal workout consists of a solid warmup, a period of stretching, a strenuous workout which increases the heart rate and a cool down period which may include stretching. If you make time for each of these workout portions, you will experience fewer injuries and increase your workout potential. We are all pressed for time, trying to squeeze a workout into a busy schedule.  However, keep in mind that the warmup and stretching is as important as the main part of your workout.

Inevitably, we all are faced with an injury at some point in our lives. Hopefully, it is not too severe and with proper rest and possibly rehab we slowly work ourselves back to where we were in our pre-injury workout routine. It is the slow period of trying to get back to where were were that is the most frustrating. My husband is still dealing with his lower back injury and working with a physical therapist.  It may be another month before he will be able to slowly work his way back to his pre-injury workouts. So this weekend we went on a hike!

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We drove to Montauk Point State Park and went on a 3-mile, 2- hour guided Seal Hike. Our guide, biologist Tish, peppered the hike with interesting information about the seal population on Long Island and fun facts about the local marine life.  We hiked one and a half miles to the seal observation area and one and a half miles back, wearing hiking boots, heavy coats and backpacks. It was terrific exercise briskly hiking through the woods and on the beach in the dry sand. We were rewarded by the sight of five Harbor Seals sunning themselves on a giant rock close to the shore.  On a bluff above the beach, through binoculars, we watched the seals wiggle, arch their backs and playfully slide into the water. The cost is $4.00 per person, reservations are required and you can find out more information at 631-668-5000.

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