Taking Time to Stretch Improves Your Health and Business

By Jenni Bodnar, GM at Thorbeckes

We’ve all experienced how amazing a really good stretch feels. Perhaps after waking up from a nap, riding in the car for an extended period of time, and I might be “stretching it here…” but hopefully, as a part of our workout routine. In our work environment, when situations occur that cause us to stretch – at first may seem uncomfortable or unnecessary, but after a time, we realize how beneficial taking that stretch really was to improving our overall business health.

This month’s article is on stretching and it’s benefits for our bodies.  There are three main ways to stretch: Dynamic, Static, and Passive – all of which, when used at the right time, will truly bring about optimum performance for your body.

Stretches of any kind are most beneficial after a short warm up of your body, such as a fast walk, a little running in place, a couple of sets of knee lifts with arm motions, anything that gets the blood flowing throughout your body. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology recommends joint rotations from head to toe before you do your warm up to increase the flow of synovial fluid to your joints. Another option is to flex hinge-type joints such as your knees and elbows, or do clockwise and counter clockwise rotations with ball-and-socket joints, such as your shoulders and hips. Move the pivotal joint in your neck from side to side. Perform movements slowly until joints feel loose and move smoothly.

Dynamic stretches lengthen muscles beyond their normal range through repetitive motions, extending the motion further with each repetition, which are usually performed in sets of eight to 12.

Static-active stretches, such as many of those used in yoga, hold a muscle for a minimum of 10 seconds; and with proper breathing,  the stretched muscle relaxes because of opposing muscles that pull against it.

Passive stretches are useful for cool downs after a great workout/aerobic exercise. Most often, when doing these stretches the use of another body part or piece of equipment will best assist the stretch, such as crossing the arm over the chest and pressing against the arm with the opposite hand to increase the muscle tension.

A similar exercise, called Isometric, is helpful for increasing flexibility and strength at the same time. In Isometric stretching, the act of stretching muscles through tensing and holding is used. An example of this might be tightening your glutes while doing a series of pelvic tilts.

The key ingredient to all forms of stretching is breathing. Because stretching is a form of exercise, it requires energy, and that energy production requires oxygen. When you hold your breath, you decrease your body’s oxygen supply and increase the buildup of carbon dioxide. Oxygen-deprived muscles are not as flexible, therefore holding your breath while stretching to improve flexibility is counter-productive. Before any stretch, take a deep breath though your nose, allowing your belly to rise with the breath. Then, exhale as you perform the stretch. While holding the stretch, continue to breathe slowly and rhythmically. You will find that the more in tune your breathing is with your stretch, the more full and lengthened stretch you will be able to achieve.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends holding each stretch for 10 to 30 seconds after the muscle begins to feel tight. Try to do two to four sets of stretches for a total of 60 seconds of stretching for each muscle, if possible. Additionally, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recommends stretching muscles in a particular order; beginning with the back, advancing to the sides, buttocks, calves and shins and ending with the arms.

As with any new routine or change of habit, in this case, if you have been away from exercise for several months, or if you have an injury or medical condition, consult your medical provider before starting a stretching routine. If you feel pain during a stretch, you are stretching too aggressively, which can cause injury. Certain stretches put a great deal of stress on joints, ligaments or tendons and should be avoided except when you are under the guidance of a professional.

My wish for you this month in both your personal health and business health, is that you embrace the stretch by first gathering information, then seek guidance from those who can assist you (build your team), then actively practice the art of stretching, thereby implementing it to the fullest – for the best possible benefit. You will win if you do!

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