Stretching is important at any age, but becomes even more crucial as get into our 40’s, 50’s, and beyond. As we age, our muscles actually get shorter and start to lose their elasticity. This can start a vicious cycle of moving and stretching less because it’s harder, and then being less physically fit because of not moving as much, and so on.
If your goal is to prevent an injury, maintaining flexibility is key. In a quite terrible analogy, have you ever heard about how a drunk driver is more likely to survive a car crash, purely because their muscles are loosened and more relaxed? The same goes for us and our bodies, minus the intoxication, of course. We are more likely to get injured if our muscles are tight and rigid.
Trying to recover from an injury? Again, stretching will play a crucial role in that process. As you go through recovery, you’re actually training your body to function well in its natural state. If you can help your body’s natural state to be one of fluid, flexible muscles, you’ll be better off for it.
One more reason to put regular stretching on your to-do list? Studies have correlated muscle stiffness with stiffness in your arteries. In 2010 The Huffington Post posted an article discussing an experiment performed on 500 Japanese adults to examine the relationship between heart health and physical flexibility. The results were rather astonishing, and found that those who were of middle age and older who were more flexible had lower blood pressure and less arterial stiffening.
In another, earlier, study, Dr. Cortez-Cooper found that stretching exercises done on a regular basis actually improved the flexibility of the carotid artery by 23%.
If your trainer has been persistent about stretching your muscles after you work out, now you know why. Even when you’re not in the studio, take a few minutes several times a week for your own seventh inning stretch. It will do your body, your mind, and your heart a whole lot of good.