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February 3, 2014

Exercise? What is that?

Exercise is a broad term for activity.  Any activity can be classified as exercise and can have varied intensities.  Exercise can be used to improve your fitness, sports performance, and overall health and well-being.  To get the most out of an exercise program for your needs, it should be tailored to your goals.  Exercise can be broken down into its basic components: strengthening, flexibility, cardiovascular work, and balance.  What is important to understand is that each of those components is essential and independent of the others, meaning that one isn’t able to take the place of the other.  It doesn’t mean that they can’t be combined in a program so that you aren’t exercising for a half a day though to get it all in.  Let’s take a look at flexibility and what is has to offer.

Merriam-Webster defines being flexible as having the capability to bend.  Without flexibility you wouldn’t be able to move.  Without adequate flexibility, other areas are moving excessively or awkwardly to compensate for the lack of mobility.  Ideal flexibility allows us to move in all of the beautiful ways that we were intended too and even put on our shoes maybe even tying the knot in the middle of our shoes if our hips will let us.  Many injuries such as sprains and strains occur because of inadequate flexibility.  So how do we increase our flexibility?  Stretching.

There are 2 relative types of stretching:  static and dynamic.  Static stretching is the more traditional type of stretching that one would think of.  It involves holding a stretch for a period of time.  Research has shown that stretches should be held for at least 15 seconds to increase the length of the muscle.  This is best used at the end of your workout program.

Dynamic stretching is stretching with motion.  An example would be walking lunges to work on your hip flexors (the muscles in the front of your hips that help to lift your thigh forward).  Dynamic stretching is ideal for warm-ups prior to your workouts.  Research (THE WORD RESEARCH WAS USED FOR THE HYPERLINK.  NOT SURE HOW TO VERIFY THAT IT TOOK) has shown that dynamic warm-ups actually improve your performance where static stretching hinders it.

The most important component of a stretching program is correct form.  You need to make sure that you are stretching what you intend to stretch.  Our bodies are incredible compensators and will take the path of least resistance.  For example, let’s say that you are bending over trying to touch your toes in order to stretch the muscles in the back of your thighs (hamstrings).  Your hamstrings start at the bottom of your pelvis and connect just below your knees.  When you bent over to stretch them out did you bend from your hips or back?  Most people bend from their back, usually excessively, stretching out their back extensors more than their hamstrings.  You need to bend forward from your hips and not your back to properly stretch your hamstrings without risking injury to your back since your hamstrings begin in the bottom of your pelvis.  So use a mirror or ask a friend for a watchful eye to ensure proper form.

A flexibility program needs to take into account your goals, capabilities, and any address any ailments or dysfunction that is present.  This will allow you to get the most out of your program.  We are focused on general health and well-being empowering you to conquer any activity that comes your way.

Check out our website at www.ptstl.com for more information, articles, and educational materials.  Call us at 636-938-4065 for a free assessment by a physical therapist to see how Evolution can help you achieve your goals.

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