Stretching/Flexibility

Most people can tell you that exercise is an important component of healthy living whether they participate in it themselves or not. What does that typically include? Walking, jogging, playing sports or going to the gym for a cardio or weightlifting session? While all of these things are a great way to get exercise in, many people neglect one of the most important components of health and fitness; stretching! As we age it becomes more and more vital to maintain mobility and flexibility to not only protect ourselves from injury and keep muscles and joints in good condition but also to maintain our ability to perform the daily tasks of living.

It’s easy to neglect our body’s flexibility. We know that cardiovascular training and sports are good for our heart and can help us burn some calories and we know the benefits of lifting weights to tone and gain strength in our muscles and we can FEEL the effects of our hard work right away. So why don’t we stretch and train flexibility like we train other areas of fitness? Flexibility is a little bit less glamourous. Like eating vegetables, we know it is good for us but it’s not exactly going to satisfy our cravings like a bowl of ice cream will. Regardless of the somewhat inconveniences of stretching, there really is no reason why we aren’t all doing it.

The truth about this vital flexibility, much like anything else, is that if you don’t use it, YOU LOSE IT! Where does it go, you ask? Over time and with extended periods of inactivity the collagen structure of our connective tissues changes and becomes more rigid which results in our bodies becoming stiffer and losing significant range of motion. This is where the injuries start! Tight muscles and connective tissues in the hips, hamstrings and backside are a leading cause in the low back pain that plagues many adults. Inflexibility can also cause injuries for someone simply trying to lift a common household object, playing a casual game of ball in the park or something as simple as tying your shoes in the morning!

It’s easy to neglect our body’s flexibility. We know that cardiovascular training and sports are good for our heart and can help us burn some calories and we know the benefits of lifting weights to tone and gain strength in our muscles and we can FEEL the effects of our hard work right away. So why don’t we stretch and train flexibility like we train other areas of fitness? Flexibility is a little bit less glamourous. Like eating vegetables, we know it is good for us but it’s not exactly going to satisfy our cravings like a bowl of ice cream will. Regardless of the somewhat inconveniences of stretching, there really is no reason why we aren’t all doing it.

Along with the physical effect of stiffness and soreness that can be the result of not stretching, studies have shown a connection between flexibility and arterial stiffness. Arterial stiffness means the heart has to work harder to pump blood back into your arteries and it decreases the effectiveness of each beat of the heart leading to increased blood pressure. This arterial stiffness can be an indicator to higher mortality rates. Your body just doesn’t work optimally when it is inflexible and the effects of this inflexibility span further than just what you can feel on the outside.

So what are some things that you can do as a driver to help combat the negative effects of neglecting your flexibility? Every time you get out of the truck you should be doing a few short and simple stretches to help target the areas that are most vulnerable to effects of a sedentary lifestyle. One very important area of the body to stretch is the hip flexors which is the crease on the front of the hips where the legs meet the torso. To stretch this you simply take a lunge step forward, bend the front knee with the back leg straight and lean your weight forward while pressing the hips forward. You should feel a stretch down the front of the rear leg and hip flexor. Tension in these muscles is somewhat responsible for low back pain and poor posture. Doing some arm circles and getting any kind of movement will help to stretch things out between driving shifts. You can research all different kinds of stretches for people who sit for long periods of time in a car or at a desk or you can come to the Driver Health and Fitness office in the Springfield terminal and we can help you with anything you need!! 

http://breakingmuscle.com/mobility-recovery/use-it-or-lose-it-the-third-pillar-of-fitness-flexibility
http://www.livestrong.com/article/125526-lack-flexibility-back-pain/