We now know that stretching is key to staying flexible. It can also be dangerous.  Many people stretch improperly, over stressing muscles and tendons in ways that lead to strains and sprains.  An injury can come on gradually as a result of of cumulative “insults” from preforming a stretch a certain way over and over again.  You don’t know you are hurting yourself…until you’re really hurt.

Other people don’t stretch wrong..they just don’t stretch at all or only once in a while.  Many people focus more on cardiovascular exercise and weight training, often neglecting stretching…until they get hurt.  To benefit from a flexibility program, you need to practice it regularly, ideally every day.

As we age, stretching becomes more important.  Our bodies undergo changes that result in the lack of elasticity.  Women tend to be more flexible than men, but starting in their 50s, both genders start to lose flexibility and range of motion, especially in the shoulders and low back, which can lead to shoulder and back issues. The good news is that this age-related decline can be slowed through a regular stretching program.

By learning to stretch properly, you’ll maximize your mobility…reduce the risk of pain and injury…perform better in any sport you engage in…and look younger.

Caution: If you have had a recent fracture,sprain,injury or surgery or if you have osteoporosis, speak to your doctor/physical therapist first.

Chances are that if you stretch, you do so before working out or playing a sport.  Big mistake!! To maintain flexibility , your muscles need to be worked just about every day. Think of stretching as part of your daily routine, like brushing your teeth.

Holding your breath:  One common stretching mistake is holding your breath as you hold a stretch.  Muscles need oxygen through-out a stretch plus holding your breath can elevate your blood pressure.  Breathe slowly and consistently throughout each phase of the stretch.

Stretching cold: Not that long ago, we were instructed to stretch before playing sports when our muscles were “cold”, Now we know that is a bad idea.  Think of your muscles as taffy. Then imagine trying to stretch and bend cold taffy.  Warm up for five minutes or more at first, before you do any stretch that you hold.

Fast and bouncy:  If  you played a sport in high school, it is time to unlearn some things you learned, including bouncing toe touches.  These moves weren’t safe then, and they are even riskier now that you’re older. Those neck circles you started  every gym class. Terrible!! They strain supporting ligaments and can lead to pinched nerves.

That hurdler stretch where you sit with one leg in front of you and the other been behind you. It stresses the meniscus and medial collateral ligament in your knee..an injury in the making.  Windmill toe touches?? NO!! Bending and rotating at the same time is a recipe for trouble.  Always keep knees “soft”(slightly bent) when stretching.  When turning, move your body slowly, as a unit, and pivot your feet.

Stretching only when you exercise: Chances are that if you stretch you do so only before working out or playing a sport.  Big mistake!! To maintain flexibility, your muscles need to be worked just about every day.  Think of stretching as part of your daily routine, like brushing your teeth.  Spend a few minutes doing a body-flexibility session daily, especially in high-risk areas such as hamstrings,shoulders and low back.

Not being well-balanced: The body is designed with opposing muscle groups and each group needs to be worked equally.  My golden rule is:

Do to the front as you do to the back, and do to the left as you do to the right.

Being to flexible can be a problem, especially if you don’t have muscles that are strong enough to support  your joints .  It is all about keeping muscles in balance as well as your body.

Enjoy your stretching session. It is a great time to integrate the mind and the body.