The Benefits of Stretching
Static or dynamic, stretching offers many benefits, as long as you use correct form
By Lynn Daigneault
In the last issue I talked about dance as a way of exercising. Dancing warms up the body and is a great form of movement and selfexpression. It is also good for de-stressing. What I didn’t say in last month’s column was that warming up your body this way prepares you for exercising and for stretching.
There are two different kinds of stretching: dynamic and static.
Dynamic stretching is what you do before exercising. It can best be described as stretching while in motion.
Dynamic stretching before a workout is good for your joints and your muscles, as it warms and prepares your body for the rigours of the workout to follow.
Some examples of dynamic stretching include:
• walking while kicking your legs behind you towards your buttocks
• skating the length of a room while moving your arms from side to side
• side lunges
• shuffling sideways quickly for a room length or two
• bringing the knee to the chest with arms high and down to the knee, repeating with the opposite leg
• rotating your arms and your shoulders front and back.
• swinging your legs from front to back, body upright
• swinging your legs sideways, body upright
• doing inchworms
Static stretching is done after a workout, and is the kind of stretching you are probably used to. It is most often done on a mat or upright, but not in motion. This type of stretching improves mobility and range of motion and relaxes the body and mind after a workout. It lengthens specific muscles, and is used as a cool-down while the muscles are still warm. Static stretching is never done at the beginning of a workout when the muscles and joints are cold.
To improve mobility and flexibility, you should hold each stretch for 30 seconds. Breathing is an integral part of the cool-down and relaxation process.
Examples of static stretches include:
• triceps and biceps stretches
• chest stretches
• quadriceps and hamstring stretches
• calf stretches
• shoulder stretches
• side bends
• upper back stretches
• lower back stretches
A word of caution: if you do not know how to stretch properly, it is worth your health to join a fitness club, take part in a stretching class, or hire a personal trainer to show you how to do it. In this way, you will not risk injury. Proper form and technique in both dynamic and static stretching are as important as proper form and technique in exercising. Please do not try any of the examples above unless you are fit, able, and knowledgeable, or under the watchful eye and instruction of a fitness professional.
Remember—always check with your doctor before embarking on an exercise or stretching program. Consult a fitness professional for advice once you are ready to proceed. In that way, you will stretch and exercise in ways that are advisable for your physical condition and state of health.
Finally, to keep those winter blahs at bay and get ready for spring . . . keep on dancing!
Lynn Daigneault is a certified Personal Trainer, Fitness Instructor and Older Adult Specialist, specializing in fitness for the active over-50 adult. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org