Wellness Wednesday – 5/19/21
As a part-time youth fitness coach, working with rambunctious young ones means that I am often subject to hilarious — and sometimes shocking — commentary. One of the most recent sentiments gaining popularity among our group is the desire to skip our pre-class warm up. “Coach, do we really have to stretch? Can’t we just play the game now?”
Upon hearing this, the high school athlete and yoga enthusiast in me is at once appalled, how could you not stretch before working out? However, the high school athlete in me is also a former athlete. And with the growing pile of responsibilities on my plate, I admittedly find myself feeling far less flexible than I once was. Stretching and mobility work remain one of the best things you can do for your body. You don’t need to be a professional athlete, a certified yoga instructor, a “gym rat” or an avid walker to experience the benefits of daily stretching. It’s something everyone should incorporate into their daily routine. So, let’s talk about why. And, of course, we’ve got you covered with the “how.”
Why You Should Stretch
I often liken stretching during breakfast, the “most important meal of the day.” Breakfast kickstarts your metabolism, helping to energize your body for the rest of the day. Stretching can have similar effects. Even better, it can also help you to wind down and relax. U.S. News calls flexibility “a vital component of maintaining quality of life as we age.” Author Cedrick X. Bryant, notes that flexibility improves posture and movement patterns while minimizing pain in numerous regions throughout the body. Most importantly, flexibility helps us maintain our ability to perform our daily tasks without discomfort.
“In the short term, flexibility training [or stretching] enhances the effectiveness of an exercise session by improving your ability to perform exercises through their full range of motion and with proper technique.” Bryant writes. “Stretching may also help reduce soreness, relieve muscle tension, enhance the delivery of blood and nutrients to the muscles and promote recovery between workouts.”
This article from Harvard Medical School adds that stretching is essential to improving, or maintaining, one’s range of motion in the joints because it keeps muscles strong and flexible. According to the article, without stretching, your muscles will shorten and grow tighter, resulting in muscles being weak and unable to extend all the way when you need the to perform a task. This in turn increases your risk for joint pain, strains and muscle damage.
Self.com notes that stretching helps your body prepare for a workout, reduces the risk of injury, pinpoints bodily imbalances, and relieves achiness. Moreover, the article notes several mental benefits to stretching, for it is an act of self-care that helps you relax, and ends your workout, or simply any daily activity, on a positive note.
For more on stretching and why it is imperative to avoiding aches and pains as you age — especially back pain, which I’m beginning to experience frequently — check out this article from Penn State’s Center for Fitness and Wellness.
When it comes to experiencing the many benefits of improved flexibility, patience is key. The Harvard Medical School article points out that “stretching once today won’t magically give you perfect flexibility. You’ll need to do it over time and remain committed to the process.” It takes consistency, repetition and most importantly, self-discipline, and the results are worth it.
For those looking to get started, this article from HuffPost provides simple tips. First, one should embrace slow exercises, warm up well, and maintain body awareness. Then, you can improve your flexibility by making small changes to your daily routine: travel actively, practice active sitting, have a walking meeting, choose the stairs over the elevator, and reach down to tie your laces. An article from The Guardian adds that one should make sure they consume enough protein, hold stretches for long enough and take warm baths (which have both mental and physical benefits).
Static or Dynamic?
As a high school athlete, I remember our coaches encouraging my team to focus more on dynamic stretches versus static stretches before both games and practices. If you are wondering “what’s the difference?” you’re not alone. According to this article from Cleveland Clinic, dynamic stretching is “actively moving joints and muscles with sports-specific motions for around 10-to-12 repetitions, targeting certain muscle groups” while static stretching “involves moving a joint as far as it can go and holding it for a length of time, typically 30 to 90 seconds.”
According to Fitness Nation, neither dynamic or static stretching are better for you, but both should be implemented into your routine. Especially when it comes to a workout, it is more beneficial to warm up with dynamics and cool down with statics in order to prepare muscles for movement and maintain muscle tissue.
Now that I’ve got you considering getting up and moving, here are some stretching routine suggestions for both mornings and evenings.
Beginner Morning Yoga – a low impact, rejuvenating stretch that only takes just over ten minutes. This is one of my favorites to start off my day with.
7 Morning Stretches to Start Your Day — Healthline offers a variety of poses to help energize your day. Included are child’s pose, cat-cows, downward dog and more.
8 Stretches for the Best Night’s Sleep — stretching is just as important at the end of the day as it is at the beginning. Sleep Advisor details the benefits of stretching before bed and 8 poses that promote a good night’s sleep.
5 Bedtime Stretches That Will Help You Actually Get to Sleep — this routine includes thread the needle, and a “sphinx” pose, all of which you can do while laying in bed.
COVID-19 Update: Lowell General Updates Visitor Policy to Allow Two Per Patient
Due to a decrease in COVID-19 cases and positive trends throughout the state, Lowell General Hospital is updating its visitor policy in accordance with the hospital’s resurgence plan required by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
Lowell General Hospital is now allowing in-person visitation with two visitors per patient at any one time. The visitor policy has been updated as follows to ensure the health and safety of their patients, staff and community:
- Each patient will be allowed two visitors over the age of 18 to visit whether they are inpatient or outpatient. The visitors may be different people throughout the duration of a patient’s admission.
- All visitors will be screened for symptoms of COVID-19 when entering any Lowell General Hospital or Circle Health facility. In addition, each visitor will be asked to perform hand hygiene and will be given a new hospital-issued facial covering on entry. All visitors must wear the facial covering at all times during their visit, including while in the patient’s room.
- Visiting hours at Lowell General Hospital will be 1 to 7 p.m., seven days a week for adult patients. In the Special Care Nursery and Pediatrics there is no hour limitation for parents or guardians, and in Labor and Delivery and Postpartum Units, there is no hour limitation for the designated visitor(s).
- The cafeteria at both hospital campuses remain closed to the public at this time.
- Virtual visits for patients’ loved ones via Zoom and other technologies will be continued and patients will be encouraged to speak to their medical care team about options to stay connected to loved ones during their stay.
The Goop Lab. This article from Gwyneth Paltrow’s wellness company details what it means to stretch your fascia — “a webby tissue that starts in your skin and wraps around and layers deep into the body” — and provides three steps for daily fascia care.
Binge Burn. Have you taken up a binge-watching habit during quarantine? Here’s a total-body couch workout you can perform while you stream shows. While doing so, check out my latest obsession, HBO Max’s Mare of Easttown.
Travel Tips. Is this warm weather — and the promising COVID-19 updates — encouraging you to get out more? Check out Healthline’s “14 Safe Travel Tips for a Healthy, Happy Summer” before you take off.