There is so much information on static stretching out there that it can be hard to know if it is good for you or not.
I am a big fan of static stretching.
The more I work with the human body and focus on getting muscles out of pain, and keeping them out of pain, the more important stretching becomes.
Maintaining Your Body’s Motion
There are stories of people with ripped, lean, six-pack abs and 4-6% body fat who go on a hike or a bike ride and they can’t do anything. They look good but can’t bend over to tie their shoes.
These people are strong and lean and look good, but they have no flexibility, they can’t move well, and therefore are very likely to injure themselves.
Stretching is the best way to maintain a range of motion as we age. It is the best way to keep ourselves moving over time as we age. If we can’t move, then we can’t keep ourselves healthy.
Just being able to keep yourself moving over the years will keep you healthy.
I have seen this play out in many different ways. Once you can’t move, then it is very hard to keep yourself healthy and pain-free.
Static & Dynamic Stretching
There are two different types of stretching: static and dynamic stretching.
Static stretching is what most people think of when they think of stretching. Bending over and touching your toes and holding it for a count of 30 seconds is a type of static stretching.
Dynamic stretching is when you move your body in specific ways to loosen up your muscles and joints. Hip rotations and neck circles are examples of dynamic stretching.
For our purposes, I am just discussing static stretching.
There are lots of studies out there concluding that static stretching doesn’t work. It doesn’t work short term. It does, however, work long-term.
When you stretch out a muscle, you stimulate a reflex that causes the muscle to tighten up initially. It is a self protective mechanism. That is why you never want to stretch before exercise. It is old-school thinking.
Always warm up before exercising and then stretch afterward.
If you stretch before exercising, you will cause your muscles to be tighter for the first 20 minutes or so of the exercise.
Always stretch after activity.
Static Stretching & Range of Motion
Static stretching is a great way to maintain the range of motion of a muscle throughout the years. Stretching throughout the years will allow you to maintain a range of motion as you age.
How important is range of motion?
For those over age 65, the leading cause of traumatic spinal injury is from falling. The leading cause of falling in those over age 65 is from a lack of hip mobility.
The tighter your hips are, the harder it will be to catch yourself when you trip while talking to your friend while you two are walking down the street.
Tight muscles will make you more likely to have a traumatic incident, and will make that traumatic incident worse.
Stretching your muscles is essential as you age. Stretching will keep you moving for many years. And keep you feeling good for many years.
It can make you less injury prone as you age by allowing you to maintain your balance and range of motion.
I hope that this helps you to have a pain-free day.