Reducing stiffness with stretching
That stretch we do when we wake up in the morning is a natural instinct, responding to our need to rouse the body into action. Our bodies would be missing out, however, if this were our only stretch of the day.
While many types of exercise, ageing or a sedentary lifestyle tighten the muscles, stretching relaxes and lengthens them. Stretching increases blood flow to the muscles, helping them work more efficiently with less risk of injury.
As an exercise, stretching is simple, suitable for people of all ages and need not be time-consuming. Of course, if the time is available, a yoga or tai chi class is a good way to combine gentle stretching with movement. Importantly, stretching can be enjoyable, helping boost energy levels and induce feelings of relaxation.
Regular stretching improves strength and flexibility and is recommended for people with osteoarthritis. Research has shown that, among people with osteoarthritis of the knee, stretching the hamstring muscles can help reduce pain and stiffness and improve range of movement.
To enjoy the benefits of stretching it’s important to stretch properly and regularly.
Here are some tips for stretching properly:
- Warm up first with, for example, a short walk
- Aim for symmetry, stretching the muscles on either side of the body equally
- Focus on major muscle groups which include calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck and shoulders
- Don’t bounce; make the movements smooth
- Hold your stretch generally for about 15 to 30 seconds and breathe as you stretch
- Expect to feel tension but not pain.
Stop if you feel any pain or discomfort. Naturally, if the symptoms persist, or you are in any doubt, please contact your doctor. A little stretch can go a long way.