By: Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.
With each birthday after our 39th (a nicer way of saying, “as we age”), our muscles tighten and our range of motion diminishes. Duh.
This puts a damper on our activities of daily living including everything from leaning over to tie our shoes and reaching for our carry-on bag in the overhead compartment to twisting when we reach to put on our seat belt and bending down to pick up the kids’ toys. Thankfully, the Sporting Club has highly skilled trainers and fitness professionals who are masterful at helping members stretch and gain flexibility, regardless of age or health status.
I recently had a “regeneration session” with The Sporting Club’s personal trainer, Eric Isselin, and it was eye opening—ok, joint opening was more like it! If you haven’t experienced this type of a stretch, you are missing something.
Like many at the gym, I do a fair amount of dynamic stretching after warming up before a workout, but this was way different. Butt kicks, high knees and hugs, carioca, glute walks, climbing “over the fence,” are some examples of dynamic stretching you see in the gym. Eric’s calls his stretching routine “regeneration” for a reason.
His post-workout “on the table” PNF, soft-tissue and active stretching session was an outstanding way to reduce my muscle tension and soreness, increase range of motion in my joints, and increase my general energy level (primarily due to increased circulation).
There’s been some confusion about the value of stretching before exercise, in part, due to a recent CDC study of 100 papers that looked at stretching studies. They found that people who stretched before exercise were not less likely to suffer injuries. But perhaps a better interpretation is that while warming up can prevent injury, stretching before exercise has little or no effect on injury. In either case, a good warm up followed by pain-free dynamic stretching before exercise (holding a stretch for 30 seconds or so without bouncing) has been shown to be generally superior to static stretching before an exercise session.
Why is stretching so valuable, even for people who don’t exercise? Here are the top 5 reasons to stretch it out:
1. Boosts flexibility and reduces likelihood of muscle strain
2. Improves blood circulation to, and nourishes, muscles, helping recovery from injury
3. Develops balance and coordination and decreases likelihood of falls
4. Reduces lower back pain by loosening muscles in the lower back, glutes, hamstrings, piriformis and hip flexors.
5. Enhances cardiovascular health, artery function and reduces hypertension.
Finally, while you are busy stretching your muscles, don’t forget your mind. For it was none other than Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. who noted, “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” That’s true mind-body benefit!