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Your Own Body: The Best Exercise Equipment

15 minutes every day, no huffing, no puffing

Millions of Americans rely on clinics, prescription medication, surgery, and alternative medicine for pain relief. But there is a simpler alternative: gentle stretching of all the large muscle groups of your body. Wherever you are – at home, at work, even in your car – you always have easy and immediate access to one of the most powerful prescriptions for physical pain: stretching. Stretching requires no special equipment and takes very little time.

Three Components of Fitness

When we think of “getting in shape,” we tend to think of strenuous aerobic activity: jogging, playing soccer, working out on a stair stepper or elliptical machine. This type of exercise is important for cardiovascular health. But there are three elements of physical fitness: flexibility, strength, and cardiovascular health. Stretching can help you improve all three.

Flexibility. Muscles that are flexible are less prone to injury. Stretching for just 15 minutes every day can help you prevent or manage everything from chronic neck and shoulder pain to recurring athletic injuries. Gentle stretching to a normal range of motion increase flexibility. There is no need to stretch to extremes.

Strength. Many people believe that they can get thin thighs and hard abs only by lifting heavy weights or doing hundreds of challenging sit-ups. But an easier exercise routine that you can perform regularly-meaning every day-actually can do more to improve overall strength. Easy, simple stretches, performed regularly, slowly, and repeatedly build muscle strength and tone.

Cardiovascular health. You should stretch before and after aerobic exercise. By stretching, you reduce your risk of injury. And when you are not injured, you can keep up a regular exercise routine. The American College of Sports Medicine suggests all adults should engage in 30 minutes or more of moderately intense physical activity daily. Note that “moderately intense physical activity” includes walking. You don’t have to be an extreme athlete to gain cardiovascular benefits.

Stretching to prevent injury. Take 15 minutes every day to stretch the large muscles of your body: your trunk, your arms, your legs. Stretching these muscles helps prevent neck and low back pain-the most frequent and disabling injuries for computer users.

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