Stretching can reduce the risk of health issues due to sitting or being immobile.
IN a day, it is likely that you sit more than you stand or walk. This is probably because most of the activities you are involved in require sitting — working, eating, driving, watching television and reading.
Studies have shown that most adults sit an average of eight to 12 hours a day. Sitting is identified as the new plague as it leads to what experts describe as the “sitting disease”. According to the Mayo Clinic, research has linked sitting for long periods of time with a number of health concerns, including obesity and metabolic syndrome — a cluster of conditions that includes increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels.
Too much sitting also increases the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Sports therapist Liam Harkness says adults have conditioned their bodies to be more comfortable with sitting; eventually, they think it is a natural habit while being on the move is not.
“In comparison, children cannot sit still for more than 10 minutes as their bodies are not trained for it. When you are in the same position for hours on end, eventually, the muscles adapt to that position. There are people who even sleep in the same position as they sit, with knees up to their chest. If they try to lie on their back, they feel strange because their muscles are not used to it.”
Harkness says when we sit for prolonged periods, our muscles get injured; there is wear and tear to the joints, restricted blood flow and tissues age faster which, in turn, accelerates the ageing process and also leads to digestive problems and migraine.
“People are on antacids or pain relief because the body is in pain. It is sending a message that whatever you are doing is not comfortable and you need to move. People who exercise don’t get these problems.”
SOFTEN THE MUSCLES
Harkness, who is the founder of the Stretch Clinic in Plaza Batai in Bukit Damansara, Kuala Lumpur says stretching is the best way to soften muscles and improve flexibility and mobility. The more movements you do and the longer you do it, the better it is for your blood circulation and joints which, in turn, keep your body healthy.
Stretching is not meant to be done only before or after exercise. People should stretch when they have been immobile for some time, says Harkness.
“You see cats or lions stretch and move their necks after they wake up. They are moving their muscles after being immobile. We should do the same. It is not only about exercise, it is about keeping blood flowing through tissues that have been dormant for a while.
“Being immobile leads to the front muscles being too short and tight, while the back muscles are too long and weak. This is the reason why you feel pain. You have to stretch to lengthen the short muscles so that there is balance. Once there is balance and better alignment, you won’t feel pain anymore.”
Harkness says there are 180 types of stretches one can do as every joint can move in so many different directions. For example, there are 33 joints in one foot that you can stretch in more than 30 ways to gain mobility in the calf, ankle, foot and toes.
“Let stretching become a habit. If your habit is to sit on a nice sofa, you will continue to do it. If your habit is to move, you will continue to do it. When your habit is to stretch, you want to do it often. And you will avoid the risks of diseases and slow down the ageing process. We get sick and old when we stop moving.”
The Stretch Clinic, which was set-up last year, provides the Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) physical therapy system that improves performance and reduces musculoskeletal pain.
AIS has been designed to treat athletes, the elderly, desk-bound executives at risk of chronic pain conditions, those with busy lifestyles or people suffering from poor posture and mobility.
Unlike other stretching techniques, the AIS approach holds a stretch for no more than two-seconds to bypass the stretch reflex mechanism and facilitate the flow of nutrient rich blood to the musculoskeletal system. This process works with the neuromuscular system to reduce the risk of injury to joints, muscles or connective tissues.