Stretching

Being limber and flexible by stretching the major muscle groups and strengthening the lower back is as important as aerobic fitness.

Keeping your muscles elastic will greatly enhance your performance in aerobic exercise. Weak back muscles make it difficult to move well, perform well, and feel good. Stretching will change that. Stretching also plays an important role in helping you reduce anxiety. A manifestation of anxiety is extreme body tension. Slowly stretching and loosening your muscles will help your body relax and will calm your nerves. Stretching your body will help you stretch your mind. Some of the benefits of stretching are that it:

  • Relaxes your whole body

  • Decreases muscle tension

  • Prevents muscle strain and injury

  • Increases stamina

  • Improves posture

  • Helps reduce mental tension and anxiety

Fact

Studies of older adults who have been on aerobic exercise programs found that the aerobic training increased many of their cognitive functions such as an increase in their reaction time and memory. Researchers believe that this occurs because exercise increases production of acetylcoline, a neurotransmitter in the brain involved in many mental functions.

Other benefits to stretching are: an increase in range of motion, promotes circulation, improves posture and balance, and increases concentration and focus. Stretching as soon as you get up in the morning will help you clear your mind, and signal your body that it is time to begin the day. Stretching at the end of the day before bedtime will relax your mind and will improve your sleep. Stretching also just feels good!

Stretching exercises should be done before an aerobic workout or other types of exercise. The only equipment you'll need is a mat for floor stretches. If you are unable to use the floor due to physical limitations, there are books and videos for chair stretches. Stretching has to be done slowly and carefully because overstretching can result in an injury that may take weeks or months to heal. Consider these tips:

  • Do not strain or force the stretch.

  • Do not bounce; gently hold the stretch for a few seconds.

  • There should be no pain while stretching.

  • Breathe normally.

  • Don't hold your breath.

  • Begin with easy stretches.

If you can find a personal trainer to help you begin a stretching program, do so. Or find books and videos on stretching at your local library or bookstore. If you are beginning a new exercise be sure to start with beginners stretches.

It is important to think about adding exercise to your anxiety program. Exercise will help you feel stronger, calmer, and more confident about yourself. It takes discipline to start and follow through on an exercise program. It takes time to make exercise part of your daily lifestyle. But research studies have shown that exercise is an important component in taking control of your anxiety. See your family physician as soon as possible and get cleared to begin an exercise regimen.

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