We’re told it’s important to be flexible as early as elementary school. Remember the sit and reach test as part of the Presidential Fitness Test? As adults, yoga is touted as the thing to do. But what if cardio is more your thing? Or what if you generally live a healthy lifestyle already? What good will stretching do you? Chiropractor Dr. Jake Mayes with 100% Chiropractic fills us in.
It keeps your spine strong
Dr. Mayes explains that a strong spine is essential to good overall health. “Your body has innately put a giant bony structure around the most important thing in your body,” he says. Dr. Mayes says when someone has minimal flexibility, it causes the muscles in the upper back, neck, lower back and abdomen to weaken — basically everything along the spine. Simply put: flexibility keeps your spine and the muscles that surround it strong.
It undoes the damage of sitting all day
Dr. Mayes explains that sitting at a desk all day causes repetitive muscle patterns in your neck and mid-back. “The patterns can lead to neck and shoulder pain,” he says. “The muscles weaken and then it can hurt to sit up straight.” Bad posture can become your body’s default because it's so used to it, but flexibility prevents that.
It makes you a better athlete
Many athletes who focus solely on cardio neglect improving their flexibility. But Dr. Mayes says a weak spine can cause a lot of problems for athletes. “If there’s a problem with your spine, it will move down to your pelvis, knees and ankles,” he says. “It will get locked in so you have tight muscles and then you aren’t moving correctly. .. It can cause knee pain or even hip pain because the foot is striking [continuously].”
It prevents dementia
Believe it or not, there’s a link between developing dementia and keeping that spine strong. “Alzheimer’s and dementia are linked to a lack of cerebral spinal fluid flow, which is a lack of motion in the spine,” Dr. Mayes says. “You still have to keep your brain strong by reading and doing crosswords, but if you look at healthy individuals who ward off Alzheimer’s and dementia, they are very active people,” Dr. Mayes says. And that includes flexibility.
Moves for improving your flexibility
As a chiropractor, Dr. Mayes of course recommends making an appointment so you can get your spine checked out. Since everyone is different, the home stretches someone is “prescribed” differ from person to person — and that’s on top of the corrective work done at appointments. But in general, some good stretches to do every morning and night are:
Simple toe touch
There’s no getting out of this one. Touch your toes, one leg at a time. Hold for five seconds, letting the tension build, and then release the tension for five seconds. Repeat five times, per leg.
Start on your hands and knees. Lift your left arm to the sky and slide it all the way through the space between your right arm and right leg. Hold for a few breaths, feeling the stretch in your shoulders and upper back. Repeat on the other side.
With your feet together, stretch your right hand overhead. Inhale and exhale deeply. Repeat with the left side.
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