Why Stretching Should Be a Part of Your Daily Routine
August 31, 2022
Stretching should be a part of everyone’s routine. Whether you are an athlete, an active older adult, a young swimmer, or someone who doesn’t exercise on a regular basis – you should be stretching on a regular basis. There is a plethora of scientific evidence to support the benefits of stretching. Over the years, there has also been plenty of controversy over the TYPE of stretching that is best. Read on for the lowdown on what causes tight muscles, the problems they can create, and why stretching should be a part of your daily routine.
The scoop on muscles and joint movement
Our muscles attach to and create movement at our joints. Tight muscles pull on their bony attachments and create stiffness at our joints. As we age, the elasticity of muscles changes/decreases, resulting in decreased flexibility which leads to decreased joint range of motion. ALL our muscles experience this change in elasticity over time and can affect our posture and ability to participate in our normal everyday activities.
Examples of what tight muscles can do to your body
Hamstrings (the muscles at the back of the thigh) and calf muscles are prime examples of muscles that become less flexible with age. Your hamstrings start at your “sit bone” and attach or end behind the knee on either side. Tight hamstrings can pull on the pelvis and create low back problems. They can also cause knee problems. In extreme cases, tight hamstrings can cause the knee to remain in a bent position at all times.
The calf muscle begins behind the knee on either side and attaches into the heel by way of the Achilles tendon. Tight calf muscles can decrease ankle joint range of motion and decrease the ability to dorsiflex (pull the foot back toward the ankle). When this happens, standing balance can become impaired because the body’s center of gravity has moved in relation to the ankle joint.
The pectoralis or chest muscles can create rounded, forward shoulders when tight. This can happen with age, but it can also happen in an avid body builder that has overdeveloped pecs, or in someone who sits at a computer all day in a slumped position. When the shoulders are rounded, it can cause the upper back or thoracic spine to round, which results in a forward head position. Over time, this can lead to neck pain.
Why stretching helps
Stretching can lengthen fibers within the muscle. As a result, regular stretching leads to increased joint range of motion and correction or prevention of muscle imbalances, which leads to improved posture and a decreased chance of injury.
Static stretching vs. Dynamic stretching
Static stretching is performed by holding a single position (while standing, sitting, or lying down) for a period of time; normally up to about 45 seconds. An example of a static stretch is a hamstring stretch (sitting with one leg extended out in front of you, knee straight, and leaning forward at the waist until you feel a stretch at the back of the thigh).
Dynamic stretching involves making active movements that stretch the muscles to their full range of motion. Arm circles are an example of a dynamic stretch.
Which type of stretching is best?
The most recent verdict on stretching is that it is best to perform dynamic stretches BEFORE an
activity (like running or swimming), and static stretches after the activity when the muscles are warm.
If you’re not a very active person or not someone who is concerned about athletic performance, then you can stick to STATIC stretching since it has been proven to have an effect on joint range of motion.
Start a stretching program
If you’ve never done any stretching before, you can find some great resources online, or you could try a gentle yoga class (or a chair yoga class if you have mobility issues). You could also make an appointment with a physical therapist. Physical therapists are movement experts. A physical therapist can perform an evaluation to determine where you need increased flexibility, create a stretching program for you, and teach you how to stretch properly. If you’re ready for some help getting started, let our team of highly trained therapists lead the way. Call Adeo Physical Therapy at 970-339-0011 to make your appointment today.