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  • Writer's pictureG Lee

The Beauty of Stretching

We should stretch every day, even for just 5 -10 minutes. Why? Let me give you my top 6 reasons.

1. Stretching is good for your mind. When you are mentally tense, your body will tense up. Likewise, when your muscle tone is tight, you will also feel tense mentally. Think about massages. Most people fall asleep during massage and can sleep much better at night after the massage. Why? Because when your body is relaxed, your mind can also relax. Stretching is like doing massage on yourself using your own body. So do some stretching every day to stretch your stress away, literally.

2. Stretching makes you feel young and agile. If you think back to the time when you were much younger, do you not realize how you could move with ease? Or when you watch any teenagers play a certain sport, do you not notice how agile they are and how they can use the body to achieve the movements that they want to make? It is a known fact that flexibility declines as the years go by because the muscles lose water and get stiffer. If you don’t maintain flexibility as you age, the muscles will shorten. Stretching can help improve range of motion (ROM) and keep your body youthful. More importantly, it can prevent loss of ROM so that you can grow old with grace (no punch intended). That brings us to the next two points.

3. Stretching can keep you at the top of your game. I am not a golfer but when I look at the way Tiger Woods and Michelle Wie tee off, it is amazing how much their shoulders and upper torso can rotate. The power of their drive has a lot to do with the power that they release when they uncoil their body in the downswing. Keeping the body flexible is essential to their performance. Likewise, when you play tennis, the power doesn’t just come from your arms. The power comes from the rotation of the torso, the shoulders and the hips. I am always impressed with how some of top tennis players (such as Rafael Nadal, Jelena Jankovic and Serena Williams) slide into a full split to save a point when they play – amazing flexibility and strength!

4. Stretching keeps you safe. When your muscles are stiff and weak, your range of motions will be restricted and your body gradually becomes frail over time. With stretching, your flexibility and range of motion will be maintained. You will be able to move with ease. Stretching will also be able to reduce muscle imbalance, which in turn will reduce the chance of getting injured during physical activities.

5. Stretching makes you feel good. When I was much younger, I used to think that “moan and groan” only happened to very old people. But I soon realized that it applies to a lot of people in their prime years. We put our body through a lot of tension every day. For example, once we get off the bed in the morning, our back has to work very hard to hold us up the rest of the day. When we spend long hours at our desk or driving or watching TV, our hip flexors (the muscles that bring our thighs towards our body) are held in a perpetually short and passive position. When our muscles are constantly working without release, they become tense and weak. Blood circulation becomes poor. The body starts to lose its flexibility as the muscles get shorter and joints get stiffer. Before you know it, moaning and groaning starts!

6. Stretching keeps you healthy. Even though stretching does not help the growth of your muscles directly, it facilitates blood circulation and hence promotes muscle growth. On the flip side, when your muscles are tight, you not only lose your flexibility, your posture will also be affected. When the posture is poor, your health will definitely be affected. Think about the low-grade tension in your shoulders as you hunch over your desk. If you don’t learn to stretch the front part of the body regularly, your anterior shoulders round forward constantly and become tight, your chest is compressed affecting your lungs and your breathing capability. What about sitting for long hours in bad posture? Your lower back and your hips will become tight and weak. Your spine may become compressed causing lower back pain. The tighter and weaker your muscles are, the harder it is for you to maintain a good posture. A vicious circle. If you don’t spend time to stretch and strengthen those muscles at the same time, your health will be compromised.

In short, if you want to maintain your mobility and independence and be able to enjoy everyday activities, stretching is just as important as strengthening your body. The two always goes hand in hand to create a well-balanced body. It is never too late to start. I always tell my students that the more inflexible you are, the more reason for you to start mobilizing your body. Just remember that flexibility and strength take time to develop. You need consistency and perseverance. Treat your body like a temple and your efforts will be rewarded!


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