STRETCHING: The Fountain of Youth?

Written by Robert M. Catalano M.A.,P.T., Cert. MDT

From the Official Physical Therapy partner of the Delaware Senior Olympics

Official Physical Therapy partner of the Delaware Senior Olympics
Official Physical Therapy partner of the Delaware Senior Olympics

Do you remember gym class when you were growing up? They often began or ended with the teacher leading us in a group of stretching exercises, which totally made no sense to us, because nothing ever hurt back then.

Now that we all have a little age on our bodies, many of the aches and pains that accompany us each day can be significantly reduced if we just take the time to stretch. Modern science has proven that not all stretching exercises are created equal. We now know that how and when we go about our stretching program is as important as what we choose to do.


As a practicing Physical Therapist with Physiotherapy Associates, I see first-hand the remarkable results a succinct, properly designed and routinely applied stretching program can have towards reducing pain, stiffness and risk of injury.


So let’s talk a little about this important topic. As I said earlier, not all stretching exercises are as effective as they should be. You can get the most out of your precious stretching time if you follow these simple rules of thumb:


  1. Warm up First

Avoid stretching cold muscles. Don’t roll out of bed and immediately start stretching. That’s a recipe for injury. Take a walk around the block or a spin on your bike, or simply make sure you are up and about for at least an hour or so before performing your stretching routine.

  1. Avoid the Bounce

We’ve all seen people do this and it is wrong. By stretching, the aim is to decrease the tension or tightness in our muscles. Research has proven that bouncing while stretching actually has the opposite effect and increases muscle tone.

  1. Hold the Stretch

Generally speaking, in order for a stretch to be effective, it should be sustained for 10 to 30 seconds and repeated at least three times for each muscle group you are addressing.

  1. Be Gentle

We have all heard the adage “No Pain, No Gain.” But did you ever hear the third part of that? “No Brain.” Muscle stretching should be performed to the extent that a mild stretch is felt along the muscle you are attempting to relax. It should not be painful. You should not be contorting your face or grimacing. If you are, you are likely being overly zealous. There is no added benefit to this approach, but certainly added risk. Be gentle.


The therapists here at Physio can help create a stretching program specific to your needs and lifestyle. A simple Musculoskeletal Evaluation is the first step to feeling better and competing at your highest potential. Give us a call. We have many locations through out Delaware.


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