Stretching is sometimes perceived to be only necessary for athletes but in fact, us physiotherapists recommend some form of stretching daily for everyone to maintain one’s mobility and independence. Without stretching the obvious happens; the muscles become tight and shorten, thus when called upon for activity involving full range of joint movement there are are blockages.
A simple example of this is after sitting for a prolonged period there is sometimes a feeling of stiffness when we extend our knees all the way to straighten up and stand/walk. Likewise, when a tight muscle is called upon for a more strenuous activity such as tennis or simply running for a bus then there may be damage/injury from suddenly being stretched. An injured muscle no longer supports a joint well and this in turn can lead to joint injury as well as general lack of flexibility.
The concept of stretching used to be that it was beneficial to do before exercise in order to prevent injury however this thinking has been proven
inaccurate. According to the latest research we now prefer to encourage stretching to already warmed up muscles. For this reason a dynamic warmup for a few minutes prior to exercise followed by a slow controlled stretching programme after exercise is advised.
So for example, even if you are a not very active person, a quick 10-15 minute walk of gradually increasing intensity followed by 5 minutes of stretching daily could have a hugely beneficial effect on your body’s function and flexibility. Stretching exercises for all muscles and muscle groups are readily available online. Try to hold stretches for 20-30 seconds rather than bouncing into stretches. You should feel some tension but not pain. I would recommend thinking about the possible/probable areas of tightness in your body based on your activities or work positions or your daily postures, driving etc, in order to choose where to start on a stretching program.
Don’t be overwhelmed, simply start somewhere; it will quickly become obvious to you where the tensions lie and which are good areas to concentrate on. The lower limbs eg. calves and hamstrings are usually a good place to start.
Mantra: “I bend so I don’t break”.