Ask the Pharmacist
by Ron & Marla Chapleau
December 28, 2015
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Q) Do you have a suggestion for a resolution that would help lead to a healthier and better 2016?
A) Many of us make annual promises to ourselves that are designed to fix our self perceived flaws. Many of these are worthy goals and should be pursued to the best of one’s ability despite the propensity of New Year’s resolutions to fall somewhat short of their mark.
While dropping bad habits, exercising more or losing weight are all great ideas, I have a suggestion for another resolution that is easy for anyone to do and has the ability to enhance the way any of us feel, and yet, is routinely forgotten by most of us.
For 2016, try to make stretching a regular part of your routine.
Stretching makes your muscles more flexible and increases your joints ranges of motion which can enhance your ability to perform just about any daily task from picking up laundry off of the floor to shoveling snow.
Stretching also increases circulation which helps keep your hands and feet warm as well as it can shorten the recovery time from minor injuries as the increased blood flow brings the necessary “tools” to enact the repair.
Stretching also improves your posture which helps to keep nagging aches and pains away from your lower back and across the shoulders.
Stretching can also provide relief from stress as one of the consequences of prolonged stress is “tight” muscles. Stretching can improve your coordination and balance leaving you less likely to fall and injure yourself.
Lastly, stretching is one of the best ways to manage the pain and stiffness that comes from arthritis.
This may seem counterintuitive as arthritis involves joints (not the muscles we are stretching) and stretching will initially be uncomfortable at best. However, study after study endorses the benefits of this form of exercise in relieving the symptoms of arthritis no matter where the pain is located.
While stretching everyday would be ideal in trying to achieve and maintain these benefits, it can be hard for many of us to schedule. At a minimum, try to find at least three days a week to engage in this activity.
Keep in mind that in many ways stretching is a science, and like many other sciences, the information that you were told as a teenager may no longer apply.
For instance, you should never stretch muscles without “warming up” first in order to reduce the risk of pulling a tight muscle. This warm up activity need not be strenuous, walking while pumping ones arms will suffice.
Another “new” tip is to hold your stretches longer. Most experts suggest holding a stretch for at least 30 seconds and possibly as long as a minute for really tight muscles.
It is important to remember that stretching shouldn’t hurt. With pain, the muscle contracts which defeats the whole purpose of the stretch. You should push the movement only until you feel a “pull”.
Experts also suggest stretching both before (although after a warm-up) and after an activity. The pre-activity should be a form of dynamic stretching. In dynamic stretching, the muscles are extended through their full range of motion which activates both the muscles themselves as well as the joints and surrounding connective tissues (e.g. ligaments, tendons..) preparing them for the task ahead. Examples of dynamic stretching include arm circles and leg swings.
After a workout, static stretching is recommended. Static stretching is the original stretch and hold positions we were taught back in grade 4 gym. Experts now suggest you focus on relaxing the muscle that is being stretched simultaneously for a better and safer pull.
If you’re dealing with stretching parts of the body that have been compromised by an injury, make sure you consult an expert to find out which ones are safe for you to perform and the proper technique to get the most out of your effort.
So remember, along with eating better, exercising more and the rest of our self prescribed improvements, try to incorporate a little stretching into your life and you will soon reap the benefits.
For more information about this or any other health related stories, contact the pharmacists at Gordon Pharmasave, Your Health and Wellness Destination in Port Elgin and Kincardine.
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Monday, December 28, 2015