Stretching is the process of lengthening muscles to increase or maintain the range of motion (ROM) of a joint. We need a certain ROM for optimal performance, regardless of our level of activity. Stretching is, therefore, an important part of a healthy lifestyle. It is recommended that we perform 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity at least five times a week. This could be a brisk walk, a gentle cycle, gardening, dancing or housework. It is also recommended that we do some form of resistance training and some form of stretching twice a week. So how can we fit all of this in to our busy lifestyles?

 

It is generally considered that dynamic stretching is advised before physical activity and static stretching after. Dynamic stretching is about preparing your body for the activity to follow by bringing the joints through their ROM and lengthening and warming up your muscles. Static stretching involves bringing a joint to the end of range and holding the muscle in a lengthened position for an extended period of time. Take the quadriceps for example, dynamic stretching would be to bring the heels back towards the backside in a repetitive motion. Static stretching on the other hand would be to hold one ankle and bring your foot towards your backside and holding it there for 20-30 seconds.

 

Both forms are equally useful, to be used to either warm-up or cool down pre and post physical activity. We need to keep our muscles lengthened and joints mobile in order to move and function. If you are walking, think about stretching the large lower body muscles such as the thighs, gluteals and calves. If you are swimming, for example, include upper body stretches of the chest, back and arms.

 

Stay loose and stay active.

 

 

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