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Stretching is essential part of your daily workout

Big benefits: When we stretch, our bodies benefit from increased range of motion and flexibility(File photograph)

When you finish your workout, do you stretch? I’ve heard many say, I don’t have time to stretch or I’ll stretch in the shower when I get home. Incorporating stretching into your daily workout is just as important as the exercise itself.

When we stretch, our bodies benefit from increased range of motion and flexibility. As we age our muscles become tight and our range of motion in our joints decreases. Our everyday movements can become slower, less fluid and make us more susceptible to muscle strain and injury. Tense and tight muscles can also contribute to poor posture. Stretching helps to lengthen tight muscles that pull areas of the body away from their intended position which improves poor posture. Try and regularly stretch your lower back, chest and shoulders which can help improve overall posture. Stretching also reduces muscle soreness and increases blood flow to the muscles, which allows a faster recovery from muscle and joint injuries.

Stretching works well to ease stress and bring peace of mind. Last night I was searching for a new jar of baking powder I’d bought recently. I searched high and low to no avail. I could feel myself getting stressed as I was in the middle of a recipe of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies! Stress can cause our muscles to tense and have negative impacts on our entire body. Spending at least 10 to 15 minutes or more stretching each day can provide a mental break and give your body a chance to recharge.

To begin:

Start by warming up with light walking, biking or jogging for five to ten minutes or stretch after your workout when your muscles are warm. Focus on the muscles that need the most help. I try and focus a lot of my stretching on my hip flexors, psoas, and quadriceps muscles because I do a lot of running and weighted lower body exercises. Spend longer on each stretch, especially if some muscles are feeling tighter than others.

You can start on your own by stretching at home or using an internet-based stretching programme. Or you could try a local yoga, Pilates or tai chi class and see which works for you and allows you to feel more aligned and flexible.

When starting a new class or routine, start slow. We all want to look like superstars when we attend a new class, but try lowering your intensity to get your muscles used to the exercise first. As your muscles become accustomed to the motion, speed up the movement to a higher intensity.

Keep stretching, and B-Active for life!

Betty Doyling is a certified fitness trainer and figure competitor with more than nine years of experience. Check her out on Facebook: www.facebook.com/B.ActiveForLife