By Barbara Bishop
While the benefits of daily exercise are numerous and well known, the benefits of a regular stretching routine have been far less emphasized in the past. Now, it’s becoming the rage to incorporate stretching into daily workouts. Experts have found that it’s just as important to health and body functioning as regular exercise.
Maybe it’s becoming popular because we’re all getting older! Just a few years ago, I would go to step classes, weight lifting sessions, treadmill classes, you name it. At the end of an hour class, the instructors would devote 2-3 minutes to stretching, really as an afterthought. I really needed much more than that. Now, there are hour-long classes devoted just to stretching! I’m thrilled.
Why the renewed focus on stretching?
As the body ages, muscles can become tighter and range of motion in the joints can be minimized. A lack of flexibility can cause movement to become slower and less fluid, as well as more susceptible to muscle strains or other injuries. This can put the kibash on active lifestyles and even limit day-to-day, normal motions. Chronically tense and tight muscles can also lead to poor posture. Help! It’s happening to me!
Stretching helps to ensure correct posture by lengthening tight muscles that pull areas of the body away from their intended position. Stretching the muscles of the lower back, chest and shoulders can help keep the spine in better alignment and improve overall posture. An increase in flexibility also helps improved balance and coordination. God knows I can use all of the above!
Stretching has been proven to help increase blood flow to the muscles. This increase in flow brings with it a greater nutrient supply to muscles, thereby reducing muscle soreness and helping to speed recovery from muscle and joint injuries. The less sore your muscles are, the less painful it will be to work those same muscles and to exercise in general. Hallelujah!
Most everyone has some stress. A buildup of stress causes your muscles to contract, becoming tense. This tension can go on to have a negative impact on just about every part of your body. Like all types of exercise, flexibility exercises like stretching have powerful stress-busting abilities. This one is so important for me in particular. I was a total stress-ball for 20 years of my life. Now, I’m finally just starting to unwind.
In the last year, stretch classes have been popping up everywhere. Here are a few highly rated ones on the Westside:
StretchLab: Devoted to one-on-one flexibility training, Stretch Lab has two locations, one in Venice and one in Hollywood. They offer 1-on-1 personalized stretching performed by certified professionals. The goal is to improve flexibility, enhance movement, reduce pain, and improve quality of life through passive stretching. In addition to improving general mobility and flexibility, StretchLab also addresses specific work or sports-related tightness, soreness or muscular imbalances.
Flexible Strength: With locations in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, they offer 1-on-1 personalized stretching, as well as online instruction for self-stretching.
I’m so inspired. I’m going to my first session next week!