You are here

Smart Start - Stretching

Getting Started

Proper daily stretching is one of the best ways to keep your body loose, limber and ready for an active life. Best of all, stretching is an activity that is easy to perform and doesn't require any special equipment. You can stretch anywhere, anytime. Stretching is a safe and easy way to increase your flexibility and enhance your fitness.

You can add stretching to your daily routine around the house and at work. Whether you like to garden, golf, dance or take a refreshing walk, stretching beforehand will help increase your enjoyment.

The more you prepare your body for activity the more enjoyable the activity will be — and the less likely you will be to injure yourself. Stretching can be done on your own, with a friend or as part of a fitness group. To make it a part of your day, all you need is:

  • a comfortable space preferably with carpet or exercise mat.
  • a chair, wall or something for support if needed – a friend will work too!
  • a stretching routine.

The Do’s Of Safe Stretching

  • Try to stretch on a daily basis by taking short activity breaks.
  • Follow proper stretching techniques and stretch all the major muscles.
  • Stretch the specific muscles required for your sport or activity.
  • Wear comfortable clothing.
  • Stretch after exercising to prevent your muscles from tightening up.
  • Try to add variety to your routine - read a reputable book on stretching or talk to an exercise professional.

The Don’ts Of Safe Stretching

  • Don't stretch when your muscles are cold.
  • Don't stretch until it hurts.  If the tension is uncomfortable ease off slightly.
  • Don't bounce when stretching.
  • Don't hold your breath.

Design a Plan

The Facts About Flexibility

Flexibility refers to how far and how easily you can move your joints. As you get older, your tendons and other connective tissues around your muscles begin to shorten and tighten, restricting the movement of your joints — you become less flexible. In many cases this loss of mobility/flexibility is more related to inactivity than the aging process. The less you move, the less you're able to move.

Five Steps To A Great Streatch

  • Warm up your muscles with 5 minutes of light activity.  Think of your muscle and connective tissue as candy taffy - when it is warm it is stretchable and when it is cold it is stiff and brittle.
  • Move slowly into the stretch and stop at the point when you feel a mild tension in the muscle you are stretching.
  • Hold the stretch position a minimum of 10-30 seconds.  Repeat 2 to 3 times as necessary.
  • As you hold the stretch take at least 2 easy breaths.
  • Slowly release the stretch and relax the muscle.

A Word Of Caution

If you have pain other than simple stiffness or an existing medical condition (including pregnancy) it is essential to check with a health professional before attempting these stretches. If you experience pain, instability, tingling or numbness in any part of your body or if you feel dizzy during these exercises you should stop it at once to avoid the possibility of injury.

If you are unsure about how to get started, talk to a fitness professional.