Saturday, April 4, 2009

Stretchy Stories!!

The human body is an amazing piece of art! And understanding it can take a long, long time but you can only appreciate its beauty if you do understand it! There is a defined logic behind each and every occurrence in the body, and hence we can devise ways to keep it fit.
Last week we saw how important it is to cool down your body after a bout of exercise, and one of the most popular ways to do that is by stretching the active muscles.

Stretches are again of 2-3 types –
Active – when you perform the stretch on your own, till your comfortable range of motion
Passive – when someone else assists you to stretch
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) stretching – when someone helps you to stretch using a slightly different procedure. This is usually used in a lot of rehab situations.

Stretching mainly targets the connective tissue, that is- the tendons that attach muscles to bones, and then the interconnected muscles, in that order. The flexibility of the connective tissue is a major factor deciding the range of motion around any joint.

I am sure all of us at some point of time, may have fallen asleep while being seated – at office, in a bus or anywhere..
The head usually falls to one side and, if it goes beyond a safe limit, the neck automatically jerks you up, and you try to keep your head upright!! The same is the case when you twist your ankle – you twist and suddenly jerk up to the original position.
This is called as the stretch reflex and is body’s natural mechanism to avoid injury due to over stretching. There are receptors in the connective tissue and the interconnected muscles that define the comfort level of your stretch…

However, while stretching in case of muscles which are shortened over a period of time, it is important to hold your
stretch comfortably for more than 20 - 25 seconds in order to re-align the muscles to their original lengths and avoid unnecessary activations of the different receptors.
Never perform any stretch when the muscle is cold. Always use a mild warm up and then perform the stretches.

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