The exercise that Harvard recommends to be fit for life

Regular stretching keeps muscles long, lean and flexible (Getty Images)

What is the most important exercise we should do today to be fit when we are older? Probably, we think of the training of strength and this is because good muscles ensure greater mobility and the ability to get up and move the body in the coming decades. However, although experts from Harvard recommend this type of training, they also explain that there is another more important exercise to keep fit -although it may not be considered an exercise as such-: the stretch.

the stretch promotes flexibility and helps joints maintain a healthy range of motion and, in doing so, it also reduces the chances of strain on the joints and muscles.

But, How often should we stretch? How long should we hold a stretch? And how many times should we do each stretch?

For the experts, stretching should have its own day, and a specific routine should be included for it beyond warming up and cooling down the body. You might think of stretching as something done only by runners or gymnasts. But we all need to stretch to protect our mobility and independence.Many people don’t understand that stretching needs to be done on a regular basis. They should be daily,” he said. David Nolan, physiotherapist of the Massachusetts General Hospital, affiliated with Harvard.

“Many people don't understand that stretching should be done on a regular basis.  They must be daily, ”said Harvard experts (Getty Images)
“Many people don’t understand that stretching should be done on a regular basis. They must be daily, ”said Harvard experts (Getty Images)

It is that according to the specialists, the stretch keeps muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, and we need that flexibility to maintain range of motion in the joints. Without it, the muscles shorten and tighten. Then, when we need the muscles for activity, they are weak and unable to fully extend. That puts us at risk for joint pain, strains, and muscle damage.

For example, sitting in a chair all day causes tension in the hamstrings in the back of the thigh. That can make it more difficult to straighten your leg or straighten your knee fully, which inhibits walking. In the same way, When tense muscles are called upon suddenly for a strenuous activity that stretches them, such as playing tennis, they can be damaged by the sudden stretch. The injured muscles may not be strong enough to support the joints, which can lead to joint injuries.

regular stretching keeps the muscles long, lean and flexible, and this means that exertion “will not put too much force on the muscle itself”, detailed Nolan. healthy muscles They also help a person with balance problems avoid falls.

Healthy muscles also help a person with balance problems avoid falls (Getty Images)
Healthy muscles also help a person with balance problems avoid falls (Getty Images)

With a body full of muscles, the idea of ​​stretching every day can seem overwhelming. But Nolan assured that it is not necessary to stretch all the muscles of the body. “Critical areas for mobility are in the lower extremities: the calves, the hamstrings, the hip flexors in the pelvis, and the quadriceps in the front of the thigh”. stretch them shoulders, neck and lower back is also beneficial. Aim for a daily stretching program or at least Three or four times a week it is advisable.

“Find a physical therapist who can assess your muscle strength and tailor a stretching program to satisfy your needs. If you have chronic conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease Parkinson’s Hello arthritisYou’ll want to discuss a new stretching regimen with your doctor before you begin.”

A hamstring stretch will keep the muscles on the back of your thigh flexible (Getty Images)
A hamstring stretch will keep the muscles on the back of your thigh flexible (Getty Images)

Stretching once today won’t magically give you perfect flexibility. Doing it over time and staying committed to the process is key. “It may have taken many months to tighten the muscles, so a person will not be perfectly flexible after one or two sessions,” the physiotherapist explained. Nolan of Massachusetts General Hospital. “It takes weeks or months to become flexible, and you’re going to have to keep working at it to maintain it.”

An hamstring stretch will keep the muscles in the back of the thigh flexible. How to do it? “Sit on the floor with your legs in front of you. Slide your hands up your legs until you feel a burning sensation. Hold the position for 30 seconds, then slowly return to a sitting position. The Harvard Stretching Guide.

It used to be believed that stretching was only necessary to warm up the muscles and prepare them for activity. However, more and more research has shown that stretching the muscles before warming them up can damage them. “When everything is cold, the fibers are not ready and can be damaged. If a person exercises first, he will get blood flow to the area, and that makes the tissue more flexible and changeable, ”he says. Nolan.

All that is needed to warm up the muscles before stretching is five to ten minutes of light activity, such as a brisk walk. You can also stretch after an aerobic or weight training workout. “Hold a stretch for 30 seconds. Do not bounce, which may cause injury. You will feel tension during a stretch, but you should not feel pain. If it does, there may be an injury or tissue damage. Stop stretching that muscle and talk to your doctor,” the Harvard guide expands.

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