Chicago Health | Homepage
Stretch daily to stay flexible

Stretch daily to stay flexible

The Medicine Cabinet: Ask the Harvard Experts

By Howard LeWine, M.D.

Q: I walk with my neighbor daily. She stretches after every walk and keeps telling me I should do the same. Is stretching really necessary?

A: Your neighbor is right! You may think of stretching as something performed only by runners or gymnasts. But we all need to stretch to help us stay flexible. Like you, a lot of people don’t understand that stretching has to happen on a regular basis.

Regular stretching keeps muscles long, lean and flexible, and we need that flexibility to maintain range of motion in the joints. Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight. Then, when you call on the muscles for activity, they are unable to extend all the way. That puts you at risk for joint pain, strains and muscle damage.

With a body full of muscles, the idea of daily stretching may seem overwhelming. But you don’t have to stretch every muscle you have. The areas critical for mobility are in your lower body: your calves, your hamstrings, your hip flexors in the pelvis and quadriceps in the front of the thigh. Aim for a program of daily stretches or at least three or four times per week.

The benefits of stretching accumulate over time as long as you remain committed to the process. It may have taken you many months to get tight muscles, so you’re not going to be perfectly flexible right away. Stick with it. The benefits of stretching accumulate over time as long as you remain committed to the process.

We used to believe that stretching was necessary to warm up the muscles and prepare them for activity. However, mounting research has shown that stretching the muscles before they’re warmed up can actually hurt them. When everything is cold, the fibers aren’t prepared and may be damaged. If you exercise first, you’ll get blood flow to the area, and that makes the tissue more pliable and amenable to change.

Proper technique is important. Hold a stretch for 30 seconds. Don’t bounce, which can cause injury. You’ll feel tension during a stretch, but you should not feel pain. If you do, there may be an injury or damage in the tissue. Stop stretching that muscle, and talk to your doctor.

(Howard LeWine, M.D., is an internist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. For additional consumer health information, please visit www.health.harvard.edu.)

(c) 2016 PRESIDENT AND FELLOWS OF HARVARD COLLEGE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

Similar Articles

Make your diet more nutrient-dense

Make your diet more nutrient-dense

Environmental Nutrition By Matthew Kadey, M.S., R.D., Environmental Nutrition Newsletter There is only so much food you

Gluten related symptoms: Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity?

Gluten related symptoms: Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity?

The Medicine Cabinet: Ask the Harvard Experts By Howard LeWine, M.D. Q: I seem to be very

Start treatment now to prevent spring allergy symptoms

Start treatment now to prevent spring allergy symptoms

The Medicine Cabinet: Ask the Harvard Experts By Howard LeWine, M.D. Q: I have spring allergies. Every

Does your doctor’s gender matter?

Does your doctor’s gender matter?

By Robert H. Shmerling, M.D. Harvard Health Blog I've read medical research studies that surprised me. I've

10 tips to fight osteoporosis

10 tips to fight osteoporosis

Environmental Nutrition By Carrie Dennett, M.P.H., R.D.N., Environmental Nutrition Newsletter Because 70 percent of our bone destiny

Articles By Category

Family Health

In The Know

CH Lifestyle

May 2017
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
April 30, 2017 May 1, 2017 May 2, 2017 May 3, 2017 May 4, 2017 May 5, 2017 May 6, 2017
May 7, 2017 May 8, 2017 May 9, 2017 May 10, 2017 May 11, 2017 May 12, 2017 May 13, 2017
May 14, 2017 May 15, 2017 May 16, 2017 May 17, 2017 May 18, 2017 May 19, 2017 May 20, 2017
May 21, 2017 May 22, 2017 May 23, 2017 May 24, 2017 May 25, 2017 May 26, 2017 May 27, 2017
May 28, 2017 May 29, 2017 May 30, 2017 May 31, 2017 June 1, 2017 June 2, 2017 June 3, 2017

Categories

Recent Comments

Fund a Cure Night | The Griffith Family Foundation

Fund a Cure Night | The Griffith Family Foundation

Enjoy a great night of baseball at Peoples Natural

VIEW ARTICLE
Swing for the fences in the fight to Sideline Pancreatic Cancer

Swing for the fences in the fight to Sideline Pancreatic Cancer

Enjoy a great night of baseball at Peoples Natural

VIEW ARTICLE

Archives