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  • Writer's pictureGregory D. Hamilton

Stretch The Facts!


Stretching for Health, Fun, and Fall Prevention


Balance and flexibility are key facets of physical fitness. Like endurance and strength, they diminish with age unless we work on them.


Working on balance and flexibility helps prevent falls, which can be disastrous. And just like it’s never too late to start working on them, it’s also never too soon. Anyone engaged in fitness should include stretching in their routine, whether beginning or experienced.


There are reasons people have always talked about being “strong enough to bend,” you know.


Plus, stretching feels good. It lowers stress and improves posture and circulation. It helps us perform everyday activities, like bending over and turning our heads.


Here are some common offerings that are safe, low-impact, and effective.


Yoga

Almost 40 million Americans enjoy yoga, according to the 2016 Yoga in America Study. About one-fifth are in their 50s, and another one-fifth are over 60.


Yoga is great for balance, strength, and bone density. It helps with back pain, blood pressure, and anxiety. The focus on breathing benefits the mind, body, and spirit. You don’t need any special equipment, and you can do it anywhere, although I recommend a few classes to start.


And a super-important fact: Yoga is highly adaptable to everyone’s physical needs and limitations. Let your instructors know about any aches, arthritis, surgeries, etc. – and they will guide you to a modification.


Pilates


Pilates focuses on the core muscles. It is somewhat similar to yoga, but it foregoes the meditative or metaphysical aspects. It provides a safe, low-impact workout that often involves working on a mat on the floor.


Like yoga, Pilates generally moves at a gentle, deliberate pace and focuses on proper form and breathing. It can build strength, reduce back pain, and improve posture, coordination, and balance.


Pilates focuses on building strength in the core muscles, or the “powerhouse” of the legs, abdominals, arms, hips, and back.


Tai chi


The slow, gentle movements of tai chi (pronounced TIE CHEE) have been practiced in China for thousands of years, and today by millions of people around the world.


The ancient martial art is sometimes called “meditation in motion.” Remembering the steps and their sequence is good for brain health and focus.


Studies show tai chi helps people with arthritis and Parkinson’s disease, along with stress management, muscle tone, lower blood pressure, and other aspects of good health. It’s also one of the best things we can do to improve our balance while standing still and, while moving. In other words, tai chi is great for preventing falls.


Whether at the gym or home with a book or video, please stretch – at least 15 minutes a day, three times a week. For a nice introduction to some basic movements, this from the National Institute on Aging


Need more information? Give me a call to help you get started!

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