As Michael Caine once said, and not a lot of people know this, from when you get up in the morning to when you go to bed at night you can lose a couple of centimetres in height. You relax and stretch in bed and browbeaten during the day you finish up the day shorter. So how do you view stretching?
One of the things that you invariably do when you get out of bed in the early afternoon?
Something you do when the beer is slightly out of reach?
What would you do with your credit card to get to the end of the month?
It can take many forms in your life but one of the overlooked ones is to keep the body supple and elastic and avoid this loss of height over a long period of time.
We see many examples of the non-supple body walking down our streets every day, hunched over, shopping bags hanging from overworked arms with the only stretched thing being the tendons in the shoulders and elbows. In the UK there is also the typical hunched up against the rain posture adopted by so many in the inclement weather that curses our poor bretheren there (Hee-Hee-Hee!) You can see the effects of osteoporosis in the elderly and how tall people tend to stoop naturally and seemingly apologetically as if asking for forgiveness for being the tall poppy.
Elasticity can add to our everyday lives by taking away the everyday aches and pains caused by sedentary lifestyles and giving a vigour back to our movements. As you enter middle age and older your body will demand more and more attention and some of that attention should be in the form of looking after ourselves as well as possible so that the same body can look after us in the best possible way.
How to stretch therefore!
There are lots of ways to encourage your body to stretch and some of the more popular exercises can get you stretching well. Yoga, Pilates and group exercise classes taken by a professional such as Callisthenics, Step or Aerobics should include a good session of stretching at the end of the class. They often won’t!
You can check out a good range of literature about the right and wrong ways to stretch with probably the simplest book ever written about the subject still being one of the best; Stretching by Bob Anderson. (Get it from Amazon after linking from the 24/7 website) Simple diagrams and explanations tell you how to do each exercise without worrying about complicated procedures that you need to follow.
Yoga is probably the best known way to keep a supple body. Yoga has many areas of study including diet, fasting, meditating and sticking to a set of suggestions about how to live, but our aim here is just to encourage you to stretch. The rest may come when you see the benefits that a strong and supple body can give you. Pilates initially requires greater concentration on strength in order to develop muscle tone and allow stretching to occur. Again it will help to develop the desired elasticity with no great sweating sessions.
The areas of your body that you should concentrate on if you are going to start stretching are the postural muscles at the front and back of the body. You should never stretch just one muscle without stretching its antagonist muscle (The opposite side) If you stretch the thigh muscles make sure you also do the hamstrings at the back. When stretching the back you should do the abs too. An equalised and balanced body will be a fitter body and less likely to succumb to aches pains and degenerative illnesses in later life.
So if you are sitting over your computer hunched over the keyboard because you don’t know how to type without looking, just like me, then make sure you finish by having a good stretch of your whole body and grow those extra 2 centimetres that you may lose in a day.