April 20th, 2018

Training Matters: Benefits of stretching hard to ignore

By Medicine Hat News on July 14, 2017.

SUBMITTED PHOTO BY ED STILES - Sam Nygaard shows how to stretch with a Bosu ball.

Hands up if you stretch regularly.

Right, that’s what I thought. Not a lot of arms up are there?

“But Ed, I don’t know what you mean by stretch regularly.”

“I heard stretching makes you weaker.”

“The guy on TV says it’s a waste of time.”

“If it doesn’t burn calories why bother.”

“I don’t know how.”

“It takes too long.”

I know you’re confused. I know the time you set aside for fitness is limited. I also know that if I asked who has ankle, knee, hip, back, neck, or shoulder pain that there would be a whole lot more arms sticking up!

Guess what would help alleviate all that pain? It’s time to stop listening to the naysayers; the mounds of science and empirical evidence supporting the benefits of stretching far outweigh the one flawed study that still gets quoted. Don’t get me started.

Granted, we fitness expert types have not helped as we bicker whether we should emphasize slow controlled static stretching, fast motion dynamic stretching, partner assisted PNF stretching, active isolated method, yoga, mobilizing the joints versus stretches or any other option.

Let’s clear the air, shall we? It’s all good! Do whatever type you know how to do.

Anything that lengthens a chronically tight tissue or helps a joint recapture lost range of motion will help the body function more efficiently whether you’re 16 or 61.

“So I should do all of it?”


In a perfect world you would book an appointment with a body mechanic who would quickly assess where you are tight and require lengthening and where you actually need to strengthen rather than lengthen.

I realize it is not a perfect world and not everyone has access to an informed body mechanic; however, we can make some generalizations about where most of our deskbound, phone-addicted society is tight.

The more time spent sitting the more the chronically tight hip flexors shorten and glue down. When tight, these pull directly on the spine and pelvis and set us up for back pain. Dynamic stretches prior to activity to open the front of the hip will help buy slack for the knees and the back. Add a slow static stretch for the hip flexors post activity to prevent future pain as well as deal with existing pain.

The other area we know will be tight relates directly to the posture of our upper torso. The rounded shoulders and hunched upper back that plagues modern life will tighten and shorten all the muscles on the front of the upper body.

Let the chest expand and the shoulders open by laying over a Bosu and spend a couple minutes relaxing into your breath before your train your abs. Finally, take every opportunity to establish good posture and then stretch the pecs with a gentle 30-second static stretch, no gain if pain!

Kudos and thank you to the organizers and volunteers who worked tirelessly to bring the Special Olympics Alberta Summer Games to our community. Congratulations to all the participants and thank you for reminding us of the value of sport and recreation and allowing us to witness pure joy.

Ed Stiles BPE, Certified Exercise Physiologist is a member of the Alberta Sport Development Centre’s Performance Enhancement Team and is the Fitness Coordinator at the Family Leisure Centre he can be reached via email at asdc@mhc.ab.ca, or at ed1sti@medicinehat.ca.

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