Stretching is important for everyone.
Whether you exercise regularly or not at all, stretching is important. I see many patients that come in with a complaint that could be reduced or even avoided with regular stretching. Stretching keeps the muscles flexible and long, as the muscles are moved through their range and blood flow is increased/improved. This blood also brings with it important nutrients including oxygen, improving strength and health of the muscle.
When muscles shorten and become tight, they become weak and unable to move through their full motion. This results in joint mobility becoming reduced which can lead to joint pain, strains, and muscle damage, at the site, but also in areas further from the site. This happens as other muscles and joints will need to work over and above their usual level, to compensate and allow us to move relatively well.
In those that exercise regularly, it is important to stretch before activity to get the muscles warmed up and prepared for the work they will be put through. If not done sufficiently there is increased risk of injury to the muscles and joints while exercising. It is also important to stretch afterwards, to improve blood flow to the muscle, improving recovery, as well as minimising muscle shortening.
For those that exercise occasionally, or not at all, it’s likely that a great deal of time is spent sedentary, and that usually involves a lot of sitting. When sitting for long periods of time, hip flexors (the muscles at the front of your hip/thigh) are in a shortened position, and will therefore become shorter. Often the same occurs with hamstrings (the muscle at the back of your thigh, which crosses the back of the knee). So when you then try to straighten your knees and hips to stand up and walk, both joints can feel tight and stiff. This puts strain the shortened muscles as well as on your lower back, often leading to back pain, and an increased risk of injury.
Another consequence of sitting for long periods of time, is that is usually involves sitting at a computer, laptop or tablet, resulting in poor positioning and hence tightness/stiffness of our shoulders and neck.
So whether you exercise or not, a daily stretching routine is highly recommended. If you exercise the routine should be specific to the type of exercise you do. If you don’t exercise I would always recommend stretching hips (front of hips, inside thigh and hamstrings), lower back, neck and shoulders. Not only will you minimise risk of injury, you will feel freer when moving, more flexible and probably have more energy. So why not set up a short (or longer) daily stretching routine, and start stretching. You’ll feel great for it. If you need some pointers don’t forget to ask your Chiropractor at your next visit.