With the excitement of the big baseball games lately, we’re guessing that you noticed at least one or two people who became overnight baseball fans. You know, those who suddenly started talking about batting averages, RBI’s, and team stats like a die-hard baseball nut, never mind not giving baseball a second thought two months ago. We’ll admit it - we got caught up in the excitement, too. We loved the widespread support for the teams, the break from other, unpleasant items in the news, and the way that these games pulled so much of our country together. We also were big fans of something that you probably didn’t think too much about during these games – the good old “seventh inning stretch.” While it’s nice during a baseball game to stand up, sing a catchy tune, and stretch out our legs, what we really like is how this age-old baseball game tradition translates to our fitness practice. With your busy schedule of working and errands and family and friends, pausing occasionally to get in an exercise session with your trainer, we hope that you’re taking time to stretch properly. Aside from feeling great and giving your body and mind a few seconds of pause and reprieve, stretching is actually necessary for proper muscle and joint health, especially as we age into the later “innings” of our lives. So when was the last time that YOU had a good seventh inning stretch?
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. Who knows? It may even help you to be around to watch the next time the Cubs win it all.