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Karl Henry - stretching is just part of a workout


Karl Henry

Karl Henry

Karl Henry

Question:I was just wondering is there any benefit to stretching for health, it's the only type of exercise I take?

Stretching is a great way to stay healthy, it can be done after a workout sessions or on its own, which is what you are currently doing. It is so simple to do, low cost and there are lots of benefits:

Stress reduction

Lower cholesterol

Release endorphins into the blood stream, making you feel good

Improve your mobility

Reduce the effects of arthritis and osteoporosis

Reduce the risk of back pain

Lower the risk of cardiovascular disease

These are just some of the many benefits of a stretching routine for the body and the mind. As with every exercise programme, aim to ensure that you build a full body routine, covering all the body parts. This is important as it ensures you aren't creating any imbalances in the body.

One of the most important areas to check is your hamstring flexibility, as there is a direct relationship between it and your lower back. Every client I have ever seen who has a bad lower back has tight hamstrings.

Here is a simple way to check your own flexibility:

Lie on the floor, ask a friend or partner to take your right foot in their hand. While keeping your left foot on the floor and keeping your right leg straight, ask the person to bring your foot towards you, stopping when you feel a slight pull on the back of the leg. Ideally, you should be aiming for a 90° angle, if yours is less, then you have some work to do! You can use this as a benchmark for your hamstrings and as it improves just watch the impact it has on your lower back.

Although stretching is great for the body, I do think that you should try to have a more balanced exercise routine, to get the maximum benefits. Stretching will work the aerobic system gently, but ideally you need to do something that places a little more stress on the body. We know the direct links of moderate cardiovascular exercise on the body, it can improve absolutely everything , with as little as 30 minutes a day having a big, big impact. Anything from fast walking to swimming to tennis, basically anything at all that gets your heart rate up to where you are slightly out of breath is what you should be aiming for. This is where the most benefits will come from in terms of endorphin release, stress release and physical benefits, don't work too hard but you do need to get slightly out of breath.

Ideally you need to do some resistance training as well. Resistance training is fantastic but does scare a lot of people. It will give you more benefits than any other form of exercise and is fantastic for arthritis and osteoporosis. Basically it is just weight bearing exercise, using your body as a weight or a physical weight too. You may need some guidance here in terms of what exercises to do.

Combine the three forms of exercise for the best results, but, as always, any is better than none!

Health & Living