Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Focusing on Flexibility in Fitness: Stretching’s Role in Workouts

ThinkstockPhotos-607478378.jpgAfter a workout, it’s important to relax your mind and body. A great way to make sure the muscles are relaxed after a workout is to stretch. Many people overlook the importance of flexibility in fitness, not realizing that with improved flexibility you can enhance your workouts.

Even just adding in 5 to 10 minutes of stretching after a workout is better than nothing! You do not have to set aside 30 minutes a day for flexibility; quick sessions after a workout are great to relieve the tension in your muscles. When I stretch after a workout session, I can tell I have a better range of motion, my muscles are pliable, and the stress from the workout eases tremendously. Most mornings when I wake up, it’s a struggle to even be able to touch my toes. With a quick stretch, I am instantly moving better.

Flexibility’s Role in Functional Movement

Flexibility is often overlooked because it’s not something seen as a component of health and wellness. When it comes to exercise, most people are looking to lose weight, run faster, lift heavier weights, and become a stronger person overall. They fail to realize that when you improve your flexibility, you will also increase your workout performance as well as increase your ability to tackle everyday activities (functional fitness).

As we age, we know it becomes increasingly difficult to be as mobile as we were before. Bones become more fragile and muscles tend to lose elasticity. This is where flexibility really comes into play. When you keep up with stretching and loosening those muscles daily with flexibility, you are increasing your body’s range of motion. With a greater range of motion comes the ease of accomplishing everyday activities.

The Best Time to Stretch

When’s the best time to stretch? The best time to static stretch is after a workout. Many of us have been taught that it is important to warm up the muscles with stretching before exercise. Many scientists have determined that is not the case. Stretching the muscles before an intense exercise session can do more harm to them than good; it may actually inhibit the ability for the muscle to fire when it is supposed to.

It is important to warm the muscles up with dynamic movements versus static. Dynamic exercises will activate the reflexes in the muscles and tendons, whereas static stretching is just pulling on the muscles before they are warmed up. Static stretching is best after exercise during recovery because it helps the body cool down from a workout; the muscles are warm from the workout, making them easier to stretch.

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Topics: stretching recovery workouts functional movement flexibility

What Exercises Should I Do?: Guidelines for Senior Fitness (Part 3)

In my first and second blogs of the series, I went over four of my guidelines to being successful in fitness:

  1. Muscle-Activation Exercises
  2. Simplistic Exercises
  3. Compound, Multi-joint, Closed-chain Movements
  4. Grip Exercises

In this third blog, I discuss another guideline.  

Guideline 5: Mobility WorkThinkstockPhotos-474645128.jpg

Mobility is the ability to move freely, pain free, and without issue throughout the range of motion of a particular joint. For instance, a client may have an issue getting into the position to do an exercise such as the sit-to-stand. One of the issues I see is related to tight ankles, which is a very common problem. With tight ankles, if the chair is in a low position, the client won't be able to keep their heels on the ground and will shift their weight to the front of the foot, opening the door to a fall or knee injury. To fix this area, I focus on three spots: range-of-motion exercises, stretching exercises (whether it is static or dynamic), and myofascial release exercises.

While stretching is important, too much of it may lead to joint laxity, which could lead to injury. Range-of-motion exercises, such as pointing and flexing with the foot, rolling the ankle around in full circles, and even calf raises will move the joint in its full range of motion and warm up the joints and muscles, which will allow for better stretching and injury prevention. Lastly, myofascial release will help loosen up that gristly tissue, which will lead to more mobility, therefore leading to increased performance, less injury, and better results.

Obviously, many CCRC residents won't be able to do foam rolling by using a foam roller on the floor, and I certainly don’t recommend that. Therefore, I recommend two tools: a mobility stick, which allows the resident to access problem spots on their own from a comfortable position, and a tennis ball, which is small enough to target certain spots, but not so hard that it may hurt too much, as myofascial release is always a bit uncomfortable. The tennis ball can be used while lying on an elevated mat or exercise table, or even used as a tool to loosen up the upper body by placing the ball on a wall and gently pressing the ball into the problem spot, such as the chest or mid back.

While mobility is an issue that affects many areas of the body, lack of ankle mobility is a common problem that I've seen, and you can apply the same mobility principles to many different areas other than the ankles.

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In my next blog, I give you my sixth and final guideline: Changing exercise variables.

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Topics: CCRC senior fitness stretching injury prevention mobility myofascial release foam rolling

Free Workout Friday: Components of a Cool Down

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Last week we talked about the proper way to warm up before exercising.  This week lets talk about cooling down post workout.  A proper cool down at the end of your workout is just as important as a total body dynamic warm up. Your goal during a cool down is to decrease heart rate and static stretch the muscles. To decrease heart rate, continue with low intensity cardio and reduce pace every minute or two. Marching, light jogging, or walking are great ways to get your heart rate back to its resting level. Static stretching prepares the body for its resting state. Start with some basic stretches. As you feel comfortable, incorporate some compound moves.

Basic:

  • Upper back
  • Check
  • Quad
  • Hamstring/calf
  • Tricep
  • Oblique
  • Shoulders

basic_stretch_png

Compound:

  • Cobra
  • Triangle
  • Warrior 1
  • Down on knee, hand inside foot, torso twist
  • Eagle arms
  • Downward dog
  • Child’s pose

Check out these other blogs from NIFS Fitness Center Management's staff in regard to stretching:

Employee Health: Stretching and Ergonommics to prevent Injury

Workplace Wellness: Prevent Injuries with Stretching

 

Topics: Free Workout Friday active living stretching

Stretching: What Is This, the Stone Age

man stretchingImagine you’re back in high school gym class. You walk into the gymnasium and what’s the first thing you do after roll call? That’s right; you warm up with some stretching before getting bombarded with dodge balls. Flash forward to present-day fitness centers, or more accurately, fitness centers in the past 10 years. The current trend is to warm up with some light cardio before dominating your workout and finally finishing up with some stretching to cool down. Sounds much safer, right? Wrong!

There has been new statistical data to support the case that stretching is, in fact, a complete waste of time. The biggest benefit of stretching (so people say) is to prevent injury. How can stretching possibly prevent injury? Simply put, stretching lengthens the muscle. By lengthening the muscle, this only elongates and spreads out the muscle fibers. And by spreading out the muscle fibers, your muscles become weaker and more susceptible to injury. Which is harder to break: 10 individual toothpicks or 10 toothpicks stuck together in a pack? The 10 individual toothpicks would easily break while the pack of 10 toothpicks would work with each other to protect the pack as a whole and become more resilient.

It’s a common and well-known aspect of resistance training. Stay tight. Stay compact. If you are performing the bench press, you do not want your arms and shoulders spread out. That will only lead to a dislocated shoulder. If you stay compact, engaging your chest and core before your shoulders and arms, you will be able to lift more and lift safer. The same thing can be said for running. The farther you reach out your stride, the more that forefoot (the front foot coming down toward the pavement) will push you back upon landing.

In a recent study, 1,543 serious runners were able to link stretching to serious muscle problems. Dr. David Lally found that 47% of male runners who stretched regularly over an extended period of time became injured at some point during the study, while only 33% of male runners who did not stretch regularly became injured.

This has to end! We don’t stretch to loosen up before we warm up anymore. We don’t lock our knees on squats anymore. We don’t arch our backs for additional strength anymore. It’s time to end stretching altogether. Simply use a wide range of motion during resistance exercises to improve flexibility in the muscles and to prevent injury.

And to those who believe a word of what you just read, Happy April Fool’s Day! Now head to your Corporate Fitness Gym or Community Fitness Center and get a good stretch session in to start your week right!

Topics: NIFS stretching april fools blog

Corporate Fitness: FREE Workout Friday

Free Workout FridayIt’s been a long week, it is cold outside and you don’t feel like doing much of anything, right?  Join the club.  You don’t have to stress about your workout. At the end of the week maybe you just need a good stretch!

Stretching Tips:

  • Improved flexibility occurs when the muscles are warm, never stretch a cold muscle.  March in place and step side to side to get your blood pumping to warm the muscles.
  • Hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds.  Only stretch until you feel mild tension, you don’t want to over stretch.
  • Breathe while stretching.  Taking deep breaths will assist in relaxation.
  • You should stretch 2-3 times per week.

group stretchingComplete the following stretches to de-stress and relax your muscles.  Worksite wellness can be easy by simply taking a moment to stretch at your desk!

Chin to Chest: Seated or standing, look straight ahead and slowly drop chin to chest.  Hold, and return to starting position.

Ear to Shoulder: Seated or standing, look straight ahead and slowly drop your head to one side toward the shoulder.  Hold and slowly move to the other side.

Upper Back and Rotator Cuff: Raise arms out in front of the body at shoulder height, place hands together.  With your palms out, push away from your body until you feel the stretch across your shoulder blades.

Tricep and Shoulder:  Stand with arms overhead.  Bend one arm at the elbow reaching behind your head toward the middle of your back.  With the opposite hand, gently pull the elbow to the point of tension.  Switch arms.

Inner Thigh:  Sit on the floor with soles of feet together.  Sitting straight up, keep your shoulders back with chest and chin up.  Press knees towards the floor to the point of tension.

Hips and Glutes:  Lie on your back with both knees bent.  Cross one leg over the opposite thigh, grasp the back the thigh and gently pull the leg towards you.  The stretch should be felt on the outside of your hip and glute.  Switch legs.

Lying Quadricep:  Lie face down on the floor and bring your right foot up towards your glute. Grasp the foot with the right hand and gently push your foot into your hand to feel the stretch in the back of your leg.  Slowly release and repeat on the left side.

When it comes to relaxation and stretching, what do you prefer... simple stretches or an organized class such as Yoga?

Topics: exercise at work healthy workforce stress employee wellness Free Workout Friday fitness exercies at your desk stretching

Employee Wellness: Healthy Joints, Healthy Body

This blog was written by Anna Hiple. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

healthy jointsYour joints play an important role in all of life’s activities. They connect bone to bone, which allows your body to move during everything from sports and exercise to everyday functions such as playing with kids, lifting groceries, performing yard work, and even sitting at a desk.

However, factors such as age, injury, diet, and lifestyle can negatively impact the joints over time, leading to stiffness, pain, and possibly even the onset of arthritis. Keep your joints mobile with the following tips:

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Shedding a few pounds can help take the pressure off of lower-body joints, including the knees, which seem to suffer the most from weight gain.
  • Mix up the aerobic exercise routine. Running and playing sports can help build bone density, but too much impact can hurt your joints. Mix in lower-impact exercises such as biking and swimming.
  • Pump iron. Strength training builds up the muscles that support joint health. Mix together upper-body, lower-body, and core exercises.
  • Keep it moving. Sitting for too long invites stiffness. Take stretching or walking breaks at the office, when watching your child’s sporting event, or when watching TV or reading at night. When you do find yourself at your desk, practice good posture.
  • Stretch. Stretch after exercising. You may also find yoga, Pilates, and t'ai chi soothing for sore joints.
  • Eat for joint health. Consume foods rich in calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins A, C, D, and K.
Topics: nutrition weight management arthritis pain relief joint health yoga injury stretching

Corporate Fitness: How to Prepare for a 5K Race

This blog was written by Jenna Pearson. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

running, 5K, corporate fitnessIf you’ve always wanted to run in a 5K road race (or any road race, for that matter) but haven’t because you are not a runner, listen up: You do not have to be a “runner” to run. Anyone can run! Get yourself ready for your first 5K by following these guidelines:

Start slow: Doing too much too soon is likely to result in injury. It may sound obvious, but if you are a beginner, opt for a training program that was designed for beginners, such as Couch to 5K. Have realistic expectations. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Don’t compare yourself to other runners—we are all different and will progress according to our own body’s schedule.

Warm up: Warming up prepares your body for aerobic activity. It gradually revs up your cardiovascular system and increases blood flow to your muscles to ensure that they are getting the nutrients and oxygen supplies they need to sustain an activity such as running. Warming up is also crucial for minimizing injuries.

Cool down: Immediately after your workout, take time to cool down. This gradually slows your heart rate back to resting and slowly reduces the temperature of your muscles, which may help reduce muscular injury, stiffness, and soreness.

Stretch: After you cool down, your muscles will be warm and pliable, making it a perfect time to stretch. Regular stretching increases your flexibility, improves circulation, and helps maximize range of motion in your joints. Simply put, stretching makes moving easier. It may also help reduce injuries.

Stay hydrated: If you prefer not to bring a water bottle with you on your run, make sure you are adequately hydrated before you hit the pavement. It is also important to make sure you hydrate after your run to replace the fluids you lost through sweat. If you do not properly hydrate, you could fall victim to muscle cramps, prolonged time to recovery, and other dehydration-related ailments.

Now that you know how to prepare, which race have you been dreaming of running?

Topics: corporate fitness hydration running stretching

Workplace Wellness: Prevent Injuries with Stretching and Ergonomics

This blog was written by Mechelle Meadows. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

relaxation, meditating, corporate wellnessCorporate fitness professionals as well as other health and safety organizations in the workplace stress the importance of preventing injuries, not just curing them. The recent strategy discussed among many worksites today is to engage employees in stretching and proper ergonomics training before an injury occurs.

The study referred to in this article found that just stretching alone was not as beneficial as incorporating ergonomic training as well. Teaching employees safe ways to sit, stand, and lift while at work, especially when doing repetitive motions, is the key to keeping proper musculoskeletal alignment and preventing overuse injuries. Stretching, then, plays a role in maintaining flexibility and releasing tension from muscles that have been held in a contracted state for long periods of time.

Most of our corporate wellness programming includes flexibility training, for example in the form of a yoga class or a stretching session at the end of a group fitness class. But, while we can provide programs like these, employees still spend the overwhelming majority of their workdays performing their actual job function, whether sitting at a desk, standing at a manufacturing line, or doing manual labor. So, the stretches and exercises they perform in their short visits to the onsite fitness center may be negated by hours spent in unsafe body postures.

Does your company or corporate wellness programming involve any new-hire training for proper ergonomics?

Topics: worksite wellness injury stretching ergonomics

Employee Health: Stretching and Ergonomics Prevent Injuries

This blog was written by Mechelle Meadows. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

workplace yoga, stretching, flexibilityCorporate fitness professionals as well as other health and safety organizations in the workplace stress the importance of preventing injuries, not just curing them. The recent strategy discussed among many worksites today is to engage employees in stretching and proper ergonomics training before an injury occurs.

The study referred to in this article found that stretching alone was not as beneficial as incorporating ergonomic training as well. Teaching employees safe ways to sit, stand, and lift while at work, especially when doing repetitive motions, is the key to keeping proper musculoskeletal alignment and preventing overuse injuries. Stretching, then, plays a role in maintaining flexibility and releasing tension from muscles that have been held in a contracted state for long periods of time.

Most of our corporate wellness programming includes flexibility training, for example, in the form of a yoga class or a stretching session at the end of a group fitness class. But while we can provide programs like these, employees still spend the overwhelming majority of their workdays performing their actual job functions, whether sitting at a desk, standing at a manufacturing line, or performing manual labor. So, the stretches and exercises they perform in their short visit to the fitness center may be negated by hours spent in unsafe body postures.

Does your company or corporate wellness program involve any new-hire training for proper ergonomics?

Topics: injury stretching ergonomics