The health benefits of stretching go well beyond improving flexibility and gaining looser, more limber, and longer muscles.
Being more flexible gives you more stamina, allows for increased physical output and performance, and because you use less energy, you’re saving it for other more important tasks.
That’s the advice from Melbourne “flexologist” Margie Lane. “Regular stretching increases your overall energy levels,” said Margie, who runs assisted stretching sessions at Stretch Studios in Toorak.
She also said stretching reduces the risk of injury. “Increased circulation also helps your organs function better, which means lower blood pressure and resting heart rate.
“Stretching can also increase the brain’s production of endorphins and neurochemicals such as serotonin, helping with depression and anxiety.
”Particularly important as we age, and for conditions like Parkinson’s and MS, stretching is great for your balance by improving fine muscle co-ordination.”
Margie says stretching has advantages for specific sports people. “For golfers for example, a compact powerful swing is dependent on the relationship of shoulder and hip rotation and we have a number of clients who find it greatly improves their game.”
Stretch at home
If the idea of being “stretched” by a flexologist isn’t for you, there are some simple stretches you can do at home.
Government health guidelines recommend people aged 65 and over should try to do some form of stretching every day, even if it’s only while watching TV.
You can make a specific time each day to do these exercises, or fit them in whenever you can, for example, while waiting for the kettle to boil.
Here are a few simple exercises that can be done around the house to help with flexibility, strength and balance:
- Stand up and sit down (or chair raise). Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor and slightly apart. Try to keep your back and shoulders straight. Slowly stand up, trying not to use your hands. Slowly sit back down and pause. Do this 8-15 times.
- Shoulder roll. Using a gentle circular motion, hunch your shoulders upwards, backwards, downwards and forwards. Do this slowly 5 times, then reverse.
- Heels up toes up. While seated, start with feet flat on the floor and lift heels as high as you can, keeping the balls of your feet on the floor. Slowly lower heels until feet are flat, then lift toes until they point upwards. Repeat for 30 seconds.
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