Monday, June 14, 2010

Are You Stretching the Right Way?

Are You Stretching the Right Way?

At end of the day, how does your body feel? Does your back ache or your neck feel stiff and sore? Do you notice little twinges when you do something as simple as bend to tie your shoes? Be honest — when was the last time you felt flexible rather than stiff? Unless you stretch or do yoga regularly, you've probably noticed that you're not as flexible as you used to be. While most of us neglect stretching, doing it regularly can help you prevent injury, promote your flexibility, and maintain your range of motion; stretching also serves as a great relaxation tool. This week, make time in your fitness routine for stretching.

As we grow older, we tend to lose some flexibility, which makes us more likely to suffer an injury — 80 percent of people suffer from back pain at some point in their lives. A stretching program can help prevent common injuries and improve overall flexibility; one study showed that people who stretched for 30 seconds per muscle group each day increased their range of motion significantly in just a few weeks.

Taking just a few minutes to stretch several times a week can pay off in the way you feel throughout the day. Perform simple stretches for the various muscle groups in your arms (triceps, biceps, shoulders), legs (hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, inner thighs), and even your chest and neck.

It's best to stretch after you warm up or after you've finished your exercise — it's easier and more effective to stretch with warmed, loose muscles. Stretching when your muscles are cold and stiff, however, may make an injury more likely. One easy way to incorporate stretching into your routine is to make it part of your cooldown.