• Laurel Contributor

To Stretch or Not to Stretch

by Dr. Sue Aery

A firm commitment to a stretching routine will ensure greater mobility and improved mental and emotional health.

This is always the question, especially in our world of science and technology. How can we best address creaky joints and chronic pain that do not warrant surgery or invasive therapies?

I also often field the corresponding question – what is the most effective way to stretch? There are some things to consider in order to achieve the desired outcome of less pain and greater mobility. Being as active as possible versus being totally sedentary will certainly help in embarking on a serious routine of stretching.

This means moving at least 30 minutes per day for at least five days per week. We also need to set aside time to be deliberate and productive with a stretching routine.

Now that we have the basics set, let’s talk about the stretches. There are three regions of the body – the neck/head/shoulders, arms and upper spine and the lower spine and legs. It is most important to cover all three regions and in all planes of motion. This means to stretch the front, back sides and include rotation. Bring each muscle group to the point of mild resistance and hold for a minimum of 30 seconds. Don’t force it, just breathe into the stretch, building on this beginning point as you progress.

Include the major joints in the body: neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, upper back, waist, lower back, hips, knees and ankles. Make sure that you focus on good form and balance out the most restricted areas. Do this daily and you will begin to reap the amazing benefits!

Some of the benefits include increased range of motion, improved circulation and posture, better mobility and gait and improved balance, coordination and strength. These are all simple benefits, but what if you also improved your body’s ability to heal and live a longer and more productive life, including better mental focus and energy? These are just some of the amazing benefits of a good stretching routine.

You can also explore practices like Yoga or Pilates – these will only be more enjoyable if you also spend time with your stretching routine on a daily basis. Stretching is easy to do at home and only has to take about 15-20 minutes at the most, so, as they say, Just Do It!

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