Monday, June 12, 2006

Stretch Yourself to New Heights

By Jenny May

Maintaining flexibility for quality of life is just as important as maintaining muscle tissue for weight loss. The ability to move your joints through their full range of motion is an important part of injury prevention since the enhanced coordination and balance helps to decrease your risk of falling. Or if you do fall, you're a lot less likely to tear or detach muscles and tendons.

Finding Time to Stretch

Fortunately, stretching is something you can do anytime, anywhere - no excuses. All you need to ensure is that your muscles are somewhat warm, and you have ample room to stretch in. Two ideal times to stretch are after a warm shower or workout. Some other great times to stretch are: whenever your muscles feel tight or stiff, after a long period of sitting, or while watching TV.
You should try to stretch at least three times a week to improve your current range of motion. If you are not disciplined enough to stretch on your own - check out some Pilates, Yoga, or Tai Chi classes to ensure you follow through. One advantage of these classes is that they will also help you to maintain and build that precious lean muscle tissue that you need to beat menopause weight gain.

A Few Caveats

If you have an injury, such as a strained muscle, don't stretch it unless you have your doctor's approval. If you've had a hip or any joint replacement check with your doctor to find out what type of stretching you should avoid. Lastly, if you suffer from osteoporosis, avoid stretches that require you to bend at the waist or flex your spine.

How to Properly Stretch

Always ensure your muscles are warmed up before stretching. Stretching cold muscles may lead to a pulled muscle. So before stretching take a very brief walk and move your arms to get the blood pumping. After a workout is always a good time to add some stretching because you're already warmed up, and since I know you're working out three times a week to lose that menopause weight gain, why not add a couple minutes of stretching?
  1. Start out slowly; spend the first 15 seconds in an easy stretch.
  2. Stretch just until you feel a mild tension or pulling sensation.
  3. Keep your joints and muscles relaxed and comfortable.
  4. Then, stretch a little farther and hold for another 15 - 30 seconds.
  5. Make sure you breathe normally - double check to ensure you're not holding your
  6. If you feel pain, back off, it means you're stretching too far.
  7. Lastly, do not bounce! Bouncing may cause small tears in your muscle tissue that leaves scar tissue and further reduces your flexibility.

Follow the simple steps above three times a week and soon enough you'll be stretching yourself to new heights!


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