It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this one out. Indeed, stretching takes precious time away from the ever-popular treadmill and weights. What’s more, for some, stretching can be uncomfortable or painful. Plus, we’re not always sure what we’re doing, and that usually means that we end up looking foolish in front of our friends, families, and co-workers. When all is said and done, the simple fact of the matter is that there are numerous reasons why we don’t stretch.
Nevertheless, there is no legitimate reason to let the problem simmer on the back burner. In this brochure, we’ll get you started on the road to better flexibility by taking a closer look at some of the more commonly noted benefits of stretching. Then, we’ll look at what could be the most important area of the body to stretch—the lower back. And finally, we’ll present a core stretching routine that will work all the major muscles of the body.
In the simplest terms, there are two primary reasons to stretch. 1) It’s good for the body, and 2) It’s good for the mind. But let’s take a closer look at how it all breaks down.
“Whether you’re just beginning an exercise program or continuing with an existing one, stretching should be an essential part of your daily routine.”
“You know you need to improve your flexibility when you truly believe a good stretch is fully extending the footrest on your favorite recliner.”
Millions of Americans are plagued by low back pain. Whether occurring as mild aches and pains or severe, immobilizing spasms, it is one of the leading overuse injuries in the workforce. And, while we may not be able to eliminate this strain, with the right stretching and strengthening exercises, we can successfully prevent and alleviate low back pain. Here’s what you can do. (Note: be sure to check out the DOs and DON’Ts of stretching before performing these exercises and always remember to breathe naturally).
Pelvic Tilt (Stretches Abdominal Muscles) — Lie on your back with knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and arms at your sides. Flatten the small of your back against the floor and hold. Your hips will tilt upward.
Double Knee to Chest (Stretches Hip, Buttocks, Lower Back Muscles) — Lie on your back with knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and arms at your sides. Raise both knees, one at a time, to your chest and hold with your hands. Lower your legs, one at a time, to the floor and rest briefly.
Trunk Flex (Stretches Back, Abdominal, and Leg Muscles) — On your hands and knees, tuck in your chin and arch your back. Slowly sit back on your heels, letting your shoulders drop toward the floor. Hold.
Cat and Camel (Strengthens Back and Abdominal Muscles) — On your hands and knees with your head parallel to the floor, arch your back and then let it slowly sag toward the floor. Try to keep your arms straight.
Partial Sit-Up (Strengthens Abdominal Muscles) — Lie on your back with knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and arms crossed over your chest. Keeping your middle and lower back flat on the floor, raise your head and shoulders off the floor, and hold.
Single Leg Extension (Strengthens Hip and Buttock Muscles, and Stretches Abdominal and Leg Muscles) — Lie on your stomach with your arms folded under your chin. Slowly lift one leg—not too high—without bending it, while keeping your pelvis flat on the floor. Slowly lower your leg and repeat with the other leg.
Sources: The American College of Sports Medicine, Advanced Fitness Assessment and Exercise Prescription, and the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
It only takes about 10 minutes and a handful of stretches to get your muscles and joints limber and ready to work. Here’s a core stretching routine you can perform that will focus on all the major muscle groups.
If you have doubts or questions about whether any of the above stretches are right for you, consult a qualified physical therapist, certified athletic or personal trainer, or medical professional.
Sources: National Strength and Conditioning Association, and the American College of Sports Medicine
Thai Chi is a Chinese form of exercise suitable for people of all ages. Students learn a series of graceful, flowing movements that look a bit like karate in slow motion. Thai Chi teaches balance, coordination, body awareness, deep breathing, concentration, and greatly helps to improve flexibility.
Thai Chi is taught in many fitness facilities and also offered through private instructors.
Yoga is a great way to increase strength, muscle tone, and yes, flexibility. Yoga means “to yoke” and, as a discipline, the technique strives to unite mind, body, and spirit. Yoga is an excellent way to relax and, at the same time, improve your flexibility.
The best way to get started is to find a class that’s near your home and has reasonable prices. Also, don’t be afraid to ask if you can observe for the first time in order to find out if Yoga is right for you.
Source: The Modern Book of Stretching by Anne Kent Rush
American College of Sports Medicinewww.acsm.org
National Strength and Conditioning Associationwww.humankinetics.com
A PUBLICATION OF THEWellness Council of America9802 Nicholas Street, Suite 315Omaha, NE 68114-2106Phone: (402) 827-3590Fax: (402) 827-3594www.welcoa.org
©2006 Wellness Councils of America
The information contained in this brochure has been carefully reviewed for accuracy. It is not intended to replace the advice of your physician or health care provider.
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