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Stretching During the Holidays is Crucial

Stretching is one aspect of fitness and well-being that’s all too easy to ignore during the holidays.

But in any season, it’s important to stay healthy and flexible.

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On Monday, Patrick Fernandez, a flexologist at the StretchLab facility on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, appeared on Fox & Friends to offer helpful advice and stretching suggestions for the upcoming holiday season and beyond.

The company offers assisted stretching to its clients with the help of trained exercise instructors.

Back pain and other pain can be relieved with stretching, but it’s always a good idea to consult your doctor before beginning any new exercise program or routine.

“Stretching is very important,” Fernandez said.

After that, he showed how to stretch the lower back, emphasizing that you should hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds.

Standing with your legs slightly apart is required, according to him. He next showed how to stretch your shoulders over your torso.

He argued that in addition to athletes, people who spend a lot of time at a desk, table, or laptop could greatly benefit from some of these stretches.

He advised holding this stretch for 20 to 30 seconds as well.

Fernandez next moved on to neck stretches, showing how to tilt your head slightly and emphasizing once more that you should hold this stretch for 20 to 30 seconds.

“There’s a lot of tension there in the neck when you’re sitting a lot,” Fernandez stated.

Of course, family members and friends can perform all of these stretches together over the holidays. They can even turn this into a new family custom for fun and healthful moments together.

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Stretching Essence

When you consider gymnasts or runners, stretching might come to mind. But we must all stretch in order to keep our freedom and mobility.

“A lot of people don’t understand that stretching has to happen regularly. It should be daily,” David Nolan, a physical therapist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, said. 

We require our muscles’ flexibility to maintain the range of motion in our joints, so stretching keeps them strong, flexible, and healthy. Conversely, the muscles shorten and tighten without it.

The muscles are then weak and unable to expand when you want them to work fully. As a result, you run the danger of developing joint soreness, muscle sprains, and other injuries.

For instance, the hamstrings at the back of the thigh become tight from sitting in a chair all day. This can make it more difficult to fully extend your leg or straighten your knee, which prevents you from walking.

Similarly to this, when tight muscles are abruptly used for a demanding activity that stretches them, like playing tennis, they risk suffering harm from being abruptly stretched. In addition, joint damage can result from weak muscles that are unable to support the joints.

Regular stretching maintains long, thin, and flexible muscles, which, according to Nolan, prevents exercise from “putting too much tension on the muscle itself.” In order to prevent falls, a person with balance issues has to have strong muscles.

Where is the Starting Point

The thought of everyday stretching may seem overwhelming with a body full of muscles. But, according to Nolan, you don’t need to exercise every muscle you have.

“The areas critical for mobility are in your lower extremities: your calves, your hamstrings, your hip flexors in the pelvis and quadriceps in the front of the thigh.”

It’s also good to stretch your neck, lower back, and shoulders. Try incorporating stretching into your daily routine at least three or four times a week.

Find a physical therapist who can evaluate your muscle strength and create a stretching regimen according to your needs (your local Y is a beautiful place to start). You should get your doctor’s approval before beginning a new stretching routine if you suffer from chronic diseases like Parkinson’s disease or arthritis.

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General Effect

Even one stretching session will only make you perfectly flexible. You’ll have to work at it steadily and commit to the process.

“It may have taken you many months to get tight muscles, so you’re not going to be perfectly flexible after one or two sessions,” Nolan added.”It takes weeks to months to get flexible, and you’ll have to continue working on it to maintain it.”

The muscles in the back of your thigh will remain flexible with regular hamstring stretches. Legs out in front of you, sit down on the floor. Until you experience burning, move your hands down your legs. 30 seconds of holding, followed by a gentle return to sitting.

How To Do It

Stretching was once thought to be essential for warming up the muscles and preparing them for activity. But increasing evidence suggests that stretching muscles before they’ve warmed up can really be harmful.

“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,” Nolan stated. 

It only takes five to ten minutes of light exercises, such as a quick walk, to warm up the muscles before stretching. Then, after an aerobic or weight-training session, you can stretch as well.

Spend 30 seconds holding a stretch. Avoid bouncing, which might hurt. Stretching will cause stress, but you shouldn’t experience pain. If you do, there can be tissue damage or harm. Stop flexing that muscle and consult your physician.

Photo: Kristin