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Stretch Break

“As humans, we sit a lot,” says Roper St. Francis Healthcare athletic trainer Laurel Pollock. “This shortens and weakens our hip flexors, resulting in low back stress.” Stretching is crucial to combating these negative effects on our bodies as well as improving our performance during physical activity. Skipping stretching may seem like a time-saver during a workout, but it’s actually a detriment to your fitness goals. “A lot of our physical troubles are related to weakness and a lack of flexibility,” she continues. By incorporating active stretching, you build strength and range of motion, both key elements to enhancing physical ability.

The Benefits:

  • Stretching works to elongate muscle fibers, which increases flexibility, range of motion and blood flow to your muscles.
  • Elongating and strengthening the muscles lessens your risk for joint pain, strain, stress fractures and muscle damage.
  • Stretching can provide tension relief by releasing muscles that have tightened in response to physical and emotional stress.
(Left to right) “The World’s Greatest Stretch” The name says it all. This total-body stretch mobilizes your ankles, hips and spine with thoracic rotation; Quad Stretch A simple but effective stretch for the upper front thigh. Be certain to keep your knees in line and press into your hand with your foot.
(Left to right) Pec Stretch Great for opening your chest after hunching at a desk. Keep your arms bent at a 90-degree angle with palms forward. For a deeper stretch, place arms against a doorframe and step forward; Downward Dog This classic stretch lengthens calves and improves range of motion in the shoulders. Keep hands shoulder-width apart and spine long from your tailbone to the back of your head.

Get Moving:

“I’m a proponent of an active warm-up and static stretching post-workout,” says Pollock. Begin a workout by moving and engaging your muscles for a minimum of five minutes to build range of motion. After your workout, hold static stretches for a minimum of 90 seconds to encourage the muscle to release and lengthen. To really see results, Pollock encourages a regular stretching routine five days a week.

Photographs by Kit MacAvoy

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