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Problem

It saved my back – and my legs. As I got older, my leg muscles tightened and contracted, and began to pull on the muscles that surround my lower back. Which exerted serious pressure on my spine and caused serious pain. Serious enough that I couldn’t stand or walk fully upright on some days.

Solution

A few days after I began to stretch (with the supervision of a physical therapist), I was relieved of all but the slightest pain. A few weeks later, I had zero pain – and my back and legs felt better, looser and stronger than they had in decades. 24 pain-free years later, they still do.

Double Knee Hug, one of my dozen favorite Stretching Exercises

Benefits of Stretching

Stretching increases flexibility. Flexible muscles can improve your daily performance. Tasks such as lifting packages, bending to tie your shoes or hurrying to catch a bus become easier and less tiring.

“Stretching improves range of motion of your joints. Good range of motion keeps you in better balance, which will help keep you mobile and less prone to falls — and the related injuries — especially as you age.

“Stretching improves circulation. Stretching increases blood flow to your muscles. Improved circulation can speed recovery after muscle injuries.

“Stretching can relieve stress. Stretching relaxes the tense muscles that often accompany stress.” (Mayo Clinic)

Stretching is too often neglected by exercisers pressed to fit workouts into their busy schedules. This common mistake can reduce the effectiveness of exercise because better flexibility results in better fitness.

By increasing your flexibility you can improve your ability to move around. You will have less muscle tension and your posture will likely improve. Most importantly, stretching after each workout reduces your risk for injury.”(American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons)

Get Down. I do this on a soft rug. If your exercise spot has a hard floor surface, you’re probably not going to exercise much – unless you use a padded mat. Here’s one with excellent cushioning and traction; it’s biodegradable and recyclable.

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