You may have heard about the benefits of stretching to increase flexibility and mobility – Tom Brady just wrote a book about it! Be prepared to hear more as recent studies show its crucial role in warding off the negative effects of aging. Check out some of the benefits:
• Injury prevention – great fall prevention tool!
• Minimize soreness – who needs pain after walking or yard work?
• Improves efficiency of movement – crush it on the golf course or Pickle ball court!
• Arthritis relief – people with arthritis tend to keep their joints in the same position because of pain but lack of movement leads to shortening of muscles and stiffness. Stretching loosens them up!
• Wider range of motion – you won’t even think about reaching up to shelves or tying your shoes – you’ll just do it!
• Helps minimize leg cramps especially at night – no more hopping out of bed in pain – ouch!
• Helps with diabetes/insulin resistance – current research shows diabetics can help control blood glucose with 30 to 40 minutes of stretching – how’s that for improving quality of life? See my blog Boomer and Senior Stretching for Diabetes for more information.
According to the latest research, targeted stretching, even without any other exercise activity, can bring about beneficial changes in flexibility, strength, and muscular endurance (as an exercise professional, I advocate both exercise for turbo-charged anti-aging but this is about stretching). Researchers have found stretching has more to do with overall body function than previously thought. Diminished flexibility is one indicator of the aging body. Here’s some science-y stuff about how stretching reverses aging:
• Stretching causes neurotransmitter activation in muscles – sending messages to the brain
It’s not enough that your body reacts positively to stretching – your brain needs to form new connections to solidify those gains. Targeted stretching makes it happen. More neurotransmission = more flexibility.
• Stretching improves proprioception: awareness of the position and movement of the body in space.
Proprioception is related to balance but goes further. When you become aware of how your muscles, joints, and connective tissues allow you to move through your world, you’re priming your body and brain to strengthen and increase range of motion.
Stretching is excellent for proprioception as you can feel specific muscles and tissues lengthen as you stretch them.
• Stretching increases sarcomeres: the contractile units of muscles
As we age, the ability of our muscles to contract forcefully diminishes especially if we become sedentary. Now it takes more effort to get out of that chair or car.
Don’t let your sarcomeres get weaker! Keep running around with your grandchildren without thinking about it.
How do you start stretching to get all these benefits now? I’ll get more specific in coming blogs and videos. In the meantime, you can view YouTube videos, cable TV shows, or check your local gym or fitness center for classes.
Why not start now to stretch your way to better health?