November 04, 2021
Do you remember how gym class started in elementary school? You and your classmates likely would sit in a large circle and stretch the different muscles in your body. Stretching is an important part of athletics or any vigorous exercise regimen, but it’s also valuable on its own — especially as you get older.
Most people don’t realize that stretching isn’t a precursor to exercise – it has standalone value for your fitness. If you’re feeling a bit stiffer in the morning as you get older, make stretching part of your wake-up routine. Here are five critical reasons why:
Stretching’s primary benefit is increased flexibility. This is especially true for people who are less active and getting older; stretching out muscles can keep you limber. Flexibility naturally reduces as you age, but stretching can help delay this.
When your muscles are tight, the tension can pull your spine into uncomfortable positions. When you stretch and strengthen your core, your posture improves, which can help keep your back and neck healthy and pain-free.
Sprains (stretching of the ligaments in your joints) and strains (injuries to the muscles in your joints) can both be prevented through stretching. You may be primarily focused on targeting large muscle groups when you stretch, but the benefits are just as real for joints, which are more susceptible to injury as you age.
When you stretch, your blood vessels relax and your circulation temporarily increases. The benefits of increased blood flow may even persist over time; it’s possible stretching can lead to lower blood pressure.
All of the benefits above, combined with an increased range of motion, can help decrease your risk of injury. This is true whether you’re actively engaging in sports or just playing with your children: muscles and joints that are stretched out are less likely to become injured.
As you get older, it’s essential to keep your body active. Stretching helps you stay flexible. Just make sure to follow a few important tips when you incorporate stretching:
Breathe normally! You shouldn’t hold your breath while you stretch. It shouldn’t hurt. If you’re stretching to the point of pain, you’ve gone too far.
As always, speak with your health care provider if you have any concerns about stretching. Otherwise, enjoy the benefits of feeling a bit more limber every day!