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Stretching & Foam Rolling: What Why & How

You may think of stretching as something performed only by runners or gymnasts. But we all need to stretch in order to protect our mobility and independence.

"A lot of people don't understand that stretching has to happen on a regular basis. It should be daily," says David Nolan, a physical therapist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.


  • Allow greater freedom of movement and improved posture

  • Increased physical and mental relaxation

  • Released muscle tension and soreness

  • Reduced risk of injury

My simple stretching routine goes:

-Upper body: shoulder stretch, behind the head, arm circles, torso twists

-Lower body: quadriceps stretch, runners lunge, sumo squat, calve stretch, leg swings, hamstring stretch, side to side lunges.

-Floor stretches: straddle stretch, touch and flex your toes, back bends, cat and cow stretches, child's pose

-Back stretches: downward dog, forward bend,

-A few sun salutations.

You don't have to follow a routine or a yoga video to get a good feeling stretch in!


Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, and we need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints.

Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight. Then, when you call on the muscles for activity, they are weak and unable to extend all the way, which is how you pull, tear or strain a muscle.

For example, sitting in a chair all day results in tight hamstrings in the back of the thigh. That can make it harder to extend your leg or straighten your knee all the way, which inhibits walking. Reach down and touch your toes every once in a while for 10 seconds.

Regular stretching keeps muscles long, lean, and flexible. Healthy muscles also help a person with balance problems to avoid falls.


Self-myofascial release (self-massage) is the action of adding targeted pressure and movement to tightness or trigger points. By applying pressure to specific points on your body you are able to aid in the recovery of muscles and assist in returning them to normal function.

Utilizing stretching alone is not always enough to release muscles tightness.

Imagine a bungee cord with a knot tied into it being stretched… This creates tension, stretching the un-knotted portion of the muscle and the attachment points. The knot, however, has remained unaltered.


I try to do some foam rolling every night and morning for a few minutes. Not only does a foam roller help me align my back, it helps to release tight muscles in my upper back, lower back, hip flexor's, IT bands, quads, hamstrings glute's and more.

Yes foam rolling is a little painful. But it is worth it.


In fact, recent studies The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center show that stretching during yoga classes can even benefit women who are battling breast cancer.

Stretching increases blood flow, boosts oxygen levels and helps deliver nutrients to your muscles.

It also removes metabolic waste such as carbon dioxide, ammonia and uric acid.

You need to stretch more than just muscles and tendons. Before hitting the road or the treadmill, it’s imperative that you stretch your hamstrings, quads and calves – but don’t forget the IT band.

The IT band, or iliotibial band, runs from your hip to just below your knee on the outside of your leg. This thick, fibrous tissue stabilizes the knee joint during movement, and it’s important to keep it loose.

To stretch the IT band, put one hand on the wall, cross your feet and use the leg closest to the wall to push against the opposite knee. The hip nearest to the wall should be tilted slightly. Failing to stretch the IT band or persistent overuse can lead to pain, inflammation and something called IT band syndrome.

Dedicate 10 minutes of your day to stretching for best results in how you look, feel and perform!

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Leah Peters

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