Do you take care of your muscles? If I had to guess, I would say probably not, but you’re not alone. Maybe you’re not taking care of them to the fullest potential. Taking care of your muscles can mean so many different things; the correct amount of stretching, foam rolling, moving, exercising. All of these questions and what’s worse is it’s very hard to find the right answers. We are here just for that reason, to answer all your questions.
When it comes to stretching there are two main schools of thought; stretching is not as necessary as we think and the other believes the opposite. So the best thing to do is follow the Goldilocks approach. Not too much, not too little, but just right! When it comes to stretching we have to know when to do it and what type of stretching works. There are two kinds of stretching, dynamic stretching which is movement based, and static stretching. Static Stretching is stationary; staying in one position for an extended period of time. Dynamic stretching is great to do before starting a workout. Dynamic stretching is when you move through ranges of motion to get the muscles warm before activity. Examples of this include walking lunges, jumping jacks, high knees, butt kickers, Cat Cows and more!
If you do static stretching before exercise it can increase your chances of injury. Think of your muscles like rubber bands, they can stretch a little bit, a decent amount, or a whole lot! When we static stretch we are stretching that muscle to a preset distance. So if you try to touch your toes and your hands come down to your knees, that is as far as you are stretching the hamstrings. But your hamstrings are actually able to stretch way farther than you are able to push it. This means that you have only allowed the muscle to move so far when it can actually move much further. By doing so you are limiting the potential movement of that muscle. That is why static stretching is better for after a workout. The muscles are already warm and have gone through their exertion. This means that they are pliable and ripe for improving.
Some would ask “ Am I able to foam roll before exercise”, “Am I able to foam roll after exercise” and the answer would be YES! Foam rolling is a great way of waking up muscles before they engage in physical activity and for enhancing recovery. By stimulating blood flow in affected areas, you’ll dramatically increase oxygen to your sore muscle fibers and reduce recovery time. Foam rolling also allows you to apply pinpoint pressure to areas of your body to loosen tight soft tissue and improve blood flow. When foam rolling the amount of time you spend on an area can range anywhere from 1 to 2 minutes. Find the areas that are afflicting you most and focus on those. The best foam roller out there is called Rollga. The Rollga was specifically designed to roll over muscles and avoid bones. Traditional foam rollers just bash into the bone and make it so you can target the musculature. Traditional foam rolling is a thing of the past, Rollga’s are the future. If you have any questions about Rollga’s or are interested about one, we have them in the office!
Foam rolling and stretching are an important part of movement, not just exercise. If movement is involved it is considered exercise. Everyone today thinks going to the gym is the only time we exercise but getting up and moving is exercise. Vacuuming your house can be considered an intense core exercise. The rotational movement paired with the extension of the arm puts strain on your lower back. If you aren’t properly engaging your core you are just putting increased strain on your back. We are not saying going to the gym or for a run isn’t important but don’t be constrained by the idea of the gym being the only place you can exercise.
In western cultures we have a habit of sitting for prolonged periods of time. Whether that be at work, at home or in the car, we are constantly sitting. Hu (2003) found that men who sit in front of the TV for more than 40 hours a week had nearly threefold increased risk of type 2 diabetes¹. They are not saying watching TV will give you type 2 diabetes but combining long periods of sitting with poor eating habits is a recipe for disaster.
If you are a sedentary individual or you sit at a desk for 8 hours it is important to exercise for at least 30 minutes². If you sit for more than 10 hours a day it is important to get at least an hour of exercise. This helps offset the effects of sitting for such long periods of time. It is also important to make sure you are getting up out of your chair every at least every 45 minutes. Or a nice helpful tip if you work in an office is to keep a small water cup at your desk. Every time you finish that cup of water, get up and refill it. This way it helps break up long periods of sitting while at work.
The take away is that we all need to stay active and move more. Our muscles need care just like our teeth. Roll them, stretch them, exercise them and they will take good care of you for many years to come.
1. Hu, F.B. (2003). Sedentary lifestyle and risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Lipids 38, 103–108.
2. Ekelund U, Tarp J, Fagerland MW, et al. Joint associations of accelerometer-measured physical activity and sedentary time with all-cause mortality: a harmonised meta-analysis in more than 44 000 middle-aged and older individualsBritish Journal of Sports Medicine 2020;54:1499-1506.