Stretching safely to shake off injury scare

Stretching forms an integral part of flexibility exercises, including Yoga, and is practiced by people of all ages.

While the benefits are many, it’s best to think of safety first, especially if you belong to the elderly section. The latest health blog of the Harvard Medical University provides six tips to reduce the risk of injuries and make the best flexibility gains possible:-

Warm up first: Muscles stretch more easily when warm. A simple act of marching with arms swinging or shaking your legs to a few music notes will do the trick. Moist heat packs or a warm shower are effective first steps, too.

Know the limit: Stretch only to the point of mild tension, never to the point of pain. If a stretch hurts, stop immediately! Reset your position carefully, then try again. With time and practice, your flexibility will improve.

Check your posture: Posture counts whether you're sitting, standing, or moving. The right posture translates to better gains in flexibility and less likelihood of injury when stretching tight muscles.

Focus on the muscle: Focus on the muscle being stretched. You'll notice that one side of your body often is tighter than the other. Work on balancing this over time.

Breathe easily: Breathe comfortably while stretching, or use yoga breathing. Whatever you do, don't hold your breath while you are holding a stretch.

Practice makes perfection: Practice often. You'll make the best gains if you stretch frequently-daily, or on as many days of the week as possible. At the very least, aim to do stretches two or three times a week.

The journal also touched on how often one should indulge in stretching exercises. A panel of experts convened by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) reviewed a wide range of studies to arrive at the recommendations.

As per the finding, healthy adults should do flexibility exercises (stretches, yoga, or tai chi) for all major muscle-tendon groups-neck, shoulders, chest, trunk, lower back, hips, legs, and ankles-at least two to three times a week.

“For optimal results, you should spend a total of 60 seconds on each stretching exercise. So, if you can hold a particular stretch for 15 seconds, repeating it three more times would be ideal. If you can hold the stretch for 20 seconds, two more repetitions would do the trick,” it said.

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