Stretching as Exercise
Are you a boomer or senior with diabetes who has difficulty exercising? Stretching could be the solution. A 2011 study in the Journal of Physiotherapy, demonstrated that a program of passive stretches lowered glucose levels by an average of 18 percent after 20 minutes and 26 percent after 40 minutes. That’s just stretching not any other exercise. Since it requires little effort and no specialized equipment (all stretches can be in a chair!), you can start right away.
How it Works
It’s all about getting glucose out of the blood and into muscle and other tissues. Holding a stretch for several seconds increases blood flow to the stretched muscles. Increased blood flow, coupled with the energy production of transporting the blood, results in decreased glucose levels. You’re reducing your blood glucose while sitting!
What’s Passive Stretching?
Passive stretching, as opposed to active stretching, means you’re using an external force to assist the stretch. That force could be your hands, a strap, or another person. Active stretching means you’re actively moving one muscle group to stretch another with no external force. The two methods meld together in most group stretching sessions because while you’re using your hands, a strap, or towel, stretch, you’re also actively contracting your muscles to deepen the stretch to get the most benefits.
More Benefits of Stretching
• Injury prevention – great fall prevention tool!
• Improves efficiency of movement – getting in and out of a car, easier to do housework
• 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!
What’s a Group Stretching Session Like?
Whether participants are in a chair, standing, or using a mat, the session starts with deep breathing. It takes time to get good at it – most people don’t breathe deeply – but with practice, your breath allows your muscles and tissues to lengthen and strengthen. Your brain benefits from deep breathing too. It calms your mind allowing those connections to occur.
After deep breathing, all major muscle groups are stretched in a focused way. The instructor identifies the muscles and joints being stretched to increase the focus and range of motion. Stretches are held for several seconds then repeated.
The session ends with a few moments of silent meditation. This allows the brain to consolidate the changes in the body. Participants report feeling energized and uplifted after the session.
How to Get Started
BoomerFit has a chair stretching program starting in February 2019 at the Barnstable Senior Center in Hyannis. The program will be coming to other senior centers soon.