If as baby boomers we want to stay young and active, we have to know how. That’s why we appreciate this piece that the founder of 50plusPlusFit, San Antonio fitness guru Bob Merz, wrote for BoomerCafé. It’s about a much overlooked part of a fitness regimen, especially for Boomers.
Without question, the single most ignored fitness practice, even though it’s the most significantly important facet of physical fitness, is stretching. This is true for all ages, but especially for baby boomers.
Just consider the position your body takes during the majority of your waking hours. For so many boomers, our lifestyle dictates that we’re sitting either behind the steering wheel, at a desk, at home watching TV, or socializing with friends and family. This one single act (sitting) causes many muscles to remain at their most contracted (shortest) state and therefore, when we try to stand up and move, our bodies don’t react the way we would like them to. For instance, we might often feel stiff.
In some extreme examples, we “pull” a muscle or, in some other way, injure ourselves. This can happen during exercising or in everyday activities like backyard chores or by lifting something. And that injury might take months to recover completely. Too bad, because it could have been avoided altogether by stretching.
I encourage you to save time, money, and pain. How? Stretch often and thoroughly! That’s exactly why we’ve included video demos and printable written instructions for various stretching moves in our Online Personal Trainer.
There are several ways to stretch, and most require no special equipment. Popular types of stretching include:
- Static – Holding a stretch very still against moderate pressure felt in the muscle.
- Ballistic – Repeatedly pressing and releasing against the pressure felt in the muscle.
- Myofascial Release – using an inanimate object to apply pressure to a “knot in the muscle.”
The benefits of stretching, such as injury prevention and greater flexibility, are due to increasing blood flow in the muscles during stretching. Stretching also increases the range of motion -– how far a joint or limb will move after stretching — which will be more than before stretching. For most of us, static stretching would probably be the best choice.
Ballistic stretching is considered by most to be ineffective and might actually do more harm than good versus static stretching. Ballistic stretching utilizes a “push and release” technique that is not the first choice of fitness professionals because this “bouncing” technique can actually pull a muscle, causing pain and time out of your daily activities. Not the result you were looking for!
Myofascial Release is a form of stretching typically administered or monitored by a fitness professional, physical therapist, or other practitioner specially trained to utilize instruments for stretching. One such instrument is a 4-inch foam roller that is available for purchase at many locations. I feel that once you learn how to use the roller, having one at home might make good sense. I have one and learned its proper use during my personal trainer training. It can actually feel good, in a “bad-good” sot of way.
But overall, static stretching is the “go to” form of stretching. It really is the easiest to do, with no equipment required at all. There are a number of basic stretching moves, each addressing a particular muscle or muscle group.
But even static stretching won’t do you any good if you don’t do it. That is the key! So stretch often and stretch thoroughly. Stretch especially before and after physical activity. You’ll be a limber, flexible, and more fit boomer.