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Stretching Is an Important Part of Exercise

Stretching before and after exercise – most of us know we should be doing it, but we don’t necessarily follow through. Some people stretch by holding a series of poses – called static stretching. Others use specific movements that stretch the muscles – called dynamic stretching. Both help warm up our muscles and limber our joints so we’ll be less likely to injure ourselves during our workout. Stretching after an exercise session is also advised, to prevent soreness and stiffness as we cool down.

Don’t think of stretching as an optional add-on or an afterthought. It should be a part of every exercise program. Stretching the ligaments and joints improves flexibility and reduces the risk of injury and falls. When our ligaments are not stretched regularly, they shorten. And for many people, an appropriate stretching program can bring back flexibility they thought was lost.

And that’s only the beginning. A study published by The Physiological Society shows that there’s much more benefit to be gained from stretching, especially for seniors with disabilities. A research team found that a program of stretching could increase blood flow to the muscles of the lower legs, even increasing the number of capillaries.

The researchers reported, “This suggests that for individuals with limited mobility, regular muscular stretching could improve blood flow to muscles. This has particularly important implications for elderly people with lower leg problems for whom walking is difficult due to pain or lack of mobility.”

They also noted that stretching can help people living with peripheral artery disease or people who have diabetes-related foot or leg problems.  Stretching, they said, may help them “improve blood flow to their lower limbs and increase or regain walking function.”

This is good news, because seniors with these types of mobility-limiting conditions often hesitate to take part in exercise, fearing it will be difficult or painful. “Our research suggests that static muscle stretching performed regularly can have a real impact,” said one of the researchers. “Even individuals who struggle to walk due to pain or lack of mobility can undertake activity to possibly improve their health.”

There’s an exercise program that’s right for almost every older adult. We can help you create a plan that includes aerobic activities, muscle strengthening and balance building — and don’t forget the stretches! Give us a call – in Illinois, you don’t need a prescription to see a physical therapist.

Categories: Exercise, Physical Therapy