nless you make an effort to maintain it, you will lose some flexibility as you age. Stretching regularly maintains range of motion, reduces risk of injury, and can help to manage musculoskeletal pain. Simply spending a few minutes a day stretching can even help foster a more peaceful heart and mind.
Use these general guidelines to help you develop a stretching routine:
- Stretch at least two to three times per week—but daily
is best! Twice a week will maintain your current level of flexibility; to improve, stretch daily for a couple of weeks.
- Stretch to the point of mild discomfort. Stretching should never be painful. If following someone else’s lead who is more flexible than you, never force your body into the same position as theirs! Listen to your own body and simply stretch until you feel a gentle pull in the muscle you are trying to stretch.
- Hold each stretch for 10 to 30 seconds. This gives the muscle time to relax into a lengthened state.
- Breathe deeply. As you hold each stretch remember to breathe deeply. Exhale as you stretch; inhale, then exhale again and try to stretch a little bit farther.
- Never bounce! Bouncy movements can cause injury to the muscle. Always use slow, sustained movements when you are stretching.
- Stretch each of the major muscle groups. Flexibility is joint specific; that is, stretching your hamstrings won’t do much for your shoulder! Be sure, therefore, to include stretches for all of the major muscle groups in your routine.
When done consistently, relatively little time spent stretching will lead to a significant improvement in flexibility.
Emily Simmons is a wellness coach, massage therapist, and freelance writer living in Collegedale, Tennessee.