girl in downward dog pose

How Stretching Can Help Reduce Stress and Anxiety

Reduce Your Stress and Anxiety through Stretching

Now that we’re in the middle of a pandemic, things have no doubt gotten a lot harder than before. There’s no telling when or if life will go back to the way it was pre-pandemic. This is one of the rare eras in human history wherein the future is uncertain for everyone.

You probably spent the last months exploring all options to keep yourself and your family financially healthy. Hopefully, you’ve been giving the same level of attention to your health as well. If you haven’t, now is the best time to assess your physical and mental well-being — specifically, if stress and anxiety are plaguing your waking moments.

How Stress and Anxiety Harm Your Health

The American Brain Society calls chronic stress “the silent killer” because it leads to conditions that could develop into something more dangerous. For example, it is typical for a person who’s under stress to experience headaches and body pains. But if the stress persists, there could be another possible underlying cause: irregularity in the blood flow, which results in oxygen and nutrient deprivation in some areas of the body.

Here are some of the potentially serious conditions that medical researchers have linked to stress and anxiety:

  • Digestion problems
  • Weak immune system
  • Susceptibility to infections
  • Depression and mood disorders
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue

It’s important, therefore, to manage your stress and anxiety as quickly as possible. One way to do this (without depending on medication) is by stretching.

What Does Stretching Do for Your Body?

Harvard Medical School has published many papers and articles touting exercise as a remedy to stress and anxiety. People who exercise experience behavioral changes that are boosted by chemical production in the brain. It works this way:

  • Exercise, in general, lowers adrenaline and cortisol — stress hormones that trigger the body to go into a “flight or fight” mode.
  • Exercise stimulates the production of endorphins in the brain. Endorphins are responsible for the relaxed and positive outlook people have after completing a rigorous exercise routine or achieving their running goals (also called “runner’s high”).
  • Exercise loosens the muscles, encourages deep breathing, and improves blood circulation. These directly combat the physical symptoms of stress, such as painful back muscles, a clenched jaw, taut facial muscles, dry mouth, and tense posture. According to Harvard researchers, putting the body in a relaxed state through exercise can send calming signals to the mind. This approach can break the stress cycle and improve mental fitness.

Stretching is the ideal type of exercise because everyone can do it regardless of their fitness level. It’s a good start for those who don’t exercise, and those who already exercise a lot can still find satisfaction in it.

When you stretch, you:

  • Make your body and thoughts slow down. You can enter a meditative state and proactively reduce your mental stress.
  • Move all muscle groups, from your face to your extremities.
  • Discover the areas in your body that are tense and need more stretching.
  • Improve your balance, posture, and spinal alignment.
  • Become more aware of your mind and body.

The Best Exercise During Quarantine

One of the best things about stretching as an exercise is you can do it anytime, anywhere. With many gyms and fitness centers being closed indefinitely because of the COVID-19 pandemic, stretching is one of the few exercises that are doable in your own home — in your work chair, even.

Dedicate as much time and effort in caring for your health as you do your business. After all, you become more alert, creative, and energized to work when you’re at your peak condition.

Lockdown Live Series, Day 22

Shin Pain Treatment at Home

overhead shot of ginger, turmeric and vitamin pills on a blue background

Supplements for Healthy Joints

There are tons of ways to help yourself maintain flexibility and balance in life! Exercising, eating the right foods, getting enough rest, stretching out, and practicing meditation are all good methods if flexibility is your goal. Another way to help your body is with vitamins. Below are three supplements we think will help you on your quest towards a more flexible life.

TURMERIC
Turmeric is an ancient spice used for thousands of years in Eastern medicine. It is an attractive plant having a pink flower but it actually the bright orange root that is used medicinally. The powder we see used in cooking, and now in vitamins, is the ground root of the plant. Recently, we in the West have woken up to the wonderful health benefits of this spice. Why is this? What’s so wonderful about turmeric? With regards to joint health, turmeric is awesome because of its anti-inflammatory properties. The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin which has the ability to block out an enzyme that causes inflammation in the body. Great news for those suffering from arthritis! It is now believed that inflammation plays a massive part in many diseases prevalent in the Western world including cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s. 

So, how can you get turmeric into your body?
Turmeric is poorly absorbed by the body and you would need to eat a huge amount of it to get the health benefits we described above. Not to worry, turmeric vitamin supplements are now readily available. Make sure capsules are of a high enough strength. You should be taking 500-1000mg of the active ingredient curcumin per day. One other thing to note is that black pepper increases the body’s absorption rate of this vitamin. Many turmeric supplements contain black pepper which helps with absorption. If not, try taking a whole black peppercorn with your tablets. For more information on the health benefits of turmeric click here.

TART CHERRIES
Tart cherries, or as they are sometimes known, sour cherries, have a multitude of health benefits. For joint health we are particularly interested in the fact that they contain anthocyanins and bioflavonoids which inhibit certain enzymes that cause bodily inflammation. They are believed to act in a similar way to aspirin or ibuprofen but with no side effects. In addition, tart cherries contain melatonin that promotes restful sleep. Often those with joint pain are continually woken by pains and don’t get enough sleep. This could be of benefit twofold.

How do you get this good stuff inside you?
Two 8oz glasses of Montmorency cherry juice per day will suffice. Alternatively, 2 tablespoons of concentrated juice will work. Don’t like juice or want to avoid the sugars? Tart cherry juice is available in a capsule form as well.

COLLAGEN
Collagen comes from the Greek word kola meaning glue, and in a real sense, collagen is the glue that holds our bodies together. Collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies but by age 21 our body’s supply begins to deplete.

So how can collagen help us in our quest for flexibility?
Having enough collagen ensures that joints, bones, tendons, cartilage as well as skin and hair can self-renew effectively. Collagen studies have shown that oral supplements of collagen can prevent and even reverse the effects of collagen loss and alleviate joint pain and injury associated with high-impact exercise. More great news for those suffering from arthritis! In a study over 120 days, healthy subjects who experienced joint pain saw significant improvements in joint function and flexibility as a result of taking collagen supplements. Click here for more in-depth details.

man doing hiit training on red stairs

Recovering from HIIT Training: Five Important Reminders

There are many benefits to doing High-Intensity Interval Training or HIIT. At least one study proves that an exercise regimen composed of short bursts of high-intensity exercise with a post-exercise recovery period can improve your heart health, lower cholesterol, stabilize sugar levels, reduce fat and increase muscle mass. But to fully reap the benefits of HIIT, your body must recover.

In this article, we give you five effective ways to recover from your HIIT training.

1. Get Some Rest

After your HIIT session, it’s crucial that you rest. Note that when you subject your muscles to an extreme workout, they develop tiny rips or micro-tears in the muscle fibers. As you sleep, your body works to repair these micro-tears, making your muscles stronger. This healing process is called hypertrophy. You need at least 6 hours of sleep after a HIIT session for your body to fully repair and grow the muscle fibers.

Another reason to have enough sleep after HIIT is that a lack of it can slow your metabolism and make you crave carbohydrate-rich foods for energy.

2. Drink Up

By drinking up, we mean water—lots of it. As you engage in any physical activity, your body sweats to cool itself down, and you lose useful electrolytes. More than quenching your thirst, rehydrating is essential as you lose both water and electrolytes when doing HIIT. Water is likewise vital in maintaining your flexibility, which will help you minimize or avoid post-HIIT injuries. While plain cool water is enough to help you rehydrate, you can also consume an electrolyte drink to speed up electrolyte replenishment. If you can get it, you can go for coconut water—it’s the better, all-natural electrolyte drink.   

3. Pack in the Proteins

Another essential part of recovery after HIIT is having a meal that is high in protein and carbohydrates. You’ll need this to replenish your body’s protein stores. Although a HIIT session burns up your body fat, it may soon resort to consuming available muscle tissue for energy. To avoid losing muscle mass instead of gaining it, be sure to have enough protein—whether from a meal or a quality protein shake, and have it within an hour after your workout.

4. Perform Active Recovery

If you’re not too sore from the last HIIT session, you may opt to do an active recovery workout. This is a low-intensity workout that reduces the lactic acid present in the muscles and cuts down on post-HIIT soreness and stiffness. Doing a vigorous recovery workout also increases blood flow to your joints and muscles, minimizing swelling. If your muscles are too sore for this sort of low-intensity exercise, you can do a yoga session instead.

5. Get Stretched

The intensity of a HIIT session causes many muscles to do more contractions than average, leaving them compacted and shorter than usual. Stretching will help your muscles return to their original state, and keep them from stiffening up. You should do static stretches, or stretches that require you to extend your muscles, then hold that position for 25 to 30 seconds.  

Recovery is important to reap the benefits of HIIT sessions fully. If you don’t get enough rest or don’t consume enough protein after doing HIIT, you run the risk of losing muscle mass or worse, not losing stubborn fat. After a punishing HIIT session, you need to get enough sleep, eat the right food, drink enough water and stretch—do these recovery measures properly to avoid undermining your efforts.

woman in blue top drinking water with headphones in

4 Ways Drinking Water Makes You More Flexible

That’s right, drinking water makes you more flexible folks. FACT! Read below to see how and why…

1. Hydrated Muscles are Flexible Muscles
The human body is made up of 70% water, which means the muscles are also 70% water. When you’re dehydrated, muscles are dehydrated too and they will not extend and contract in the way they are meant to when fully hydrated. Dehydration makes them inflexible.

2. Hydration Increases Strength
Hydrated muscles are strong muscles. Strength is adversely affected by dehydration because if you don’t drink enough water your muscles will be deprived of electrolytes and cramp. You won’t have as much physical strength as you would if you were fully hydrated.

3. Proper Hydration Lessens Post-Exercise Soreness
Dehydration during exercise can exasperate muscle soreness after workouts. That’s right folks! You will feel the post-exercise burn way more if you exercise on dehydrated muscles. So why does this happen? Lack of water dramatically affects the flow of oxygen in the blood and the removal of waste products from your body resulting in delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS which is the pain you often feel a day or two after working out.

4. Hydrated Joints are More Flexible
Joints are lubricated by synovial fluid, an oily, water-based fluid that manufactured by your body to keep your joints functioning properly. So, what happens if your body has a lack of water? That’s right, you guessed it, the fluid is depleted and joint stiffness is the result. And no one wants that, right?!

So, folks, there you have it! 4 ways drinking water makes you more flexible. If you want to stay flexible, stay hydrated! But how much water is enough we hear you cry? Half your body weight in fluid ounces per day is a good general guideline but you will need to take in more when exercising or when it is very hot.

Cyclist riding downhill

How to Recover Faster From Cycling Injuries

Recover Faster from cycling injuries by following these simple tips! Cycling injuries can seriously impede your athletic performance and recovery can often take longer than expected. However, there are ways to speed up the process and get back on your bike faster.

In this article, we are going to talk briefly about this type of injury and summarize the different methods available to recover faster and resume your sporting activities as soon as possible.

The most common injuries in cyclists

We can broadly break them down into two different types (1, 2):

• Overuse injuries

These injuries are common if your bike is not appropriate for you and if you are adopting a bad posture while cycling. Even if your cycling technique is good, this sport has repetitive movements and may lead to recurrent pains and aches or more serious conditions such as patella tendonitis.

• Traumatic injuries

These are caused by an accident or crash and may result in cuts, ligament tears, bone fractures, and much more.

Recover faster with professional rehab

In most cases, rehabilitation is the first choice to recover from cycling injuries. Even major traumatic injuries that require surgery go through rehab at some point.

Stretching is an essential technique to recover. Through stretching and flexibility exercises, rehab professionals can gradually restore the normal range of motion when it is affected. They can also reduce muscle aches and pains by releasing your trigger points, applying the principles of massage and manual manipulation, or using techniques such as electrotherapy or hydrotherapy (3).

A physiotherapist is also trained to detect the source of the pain and suggest changes to your bike, riding position or cycling technique. The main goal is to reduce the chance of re-injury, alleviate your stiffness and pain symptoms, and detect muscular imbalances to fix them and prevent future injuries.

Other methods to speed up recovery

Physiotherapy is an excellent method for a prompt recovery, but there are many others you can include in your rehab strategy. We’re going to focus on the most common methods: acupuncture, chiropractic and osteopathy.

• Acupuncture

Placing needles in various key points in the body speeds up relaxation and has been found to be beneficial if you have low back pain, neck pain, and other symptoms.

• Chiropractic

Similar to traditional physiotherapy, chiropractic is a manual therapy technique that improves aching muscles (especially in your back) by manipulating the bones of the spine and realigning them to relieve pressure and promote a better posture.

• Osteopathy

Has a similar principle to chiropractic but focuses on various parts of the body at the same time, and not only the spine. Osteopaths use manual therapies and massage and may also apply mobilization techniques. It is more appropriate if the pain is located in your limbs and after knee surgery.

Another important part of your rehab strategy is what you do to get better. For instance, if you notice swelling in your knee, you can follow the RICE strategy, which stands for Resting your muscles, applying Ice, Compression to the swollen area and Elevating your limb. Moreover, if you want to recover faster from cycling injuries, be sure to follow instructions and definitely don’t miss any follow-up rehab sessions.

Man stretching legs out

Achieve Optimal Recovery in Sports

When you practice sports and excel at them, there’s a high chance you feel a stronger connection with your muscles. You know exactly how hard to hit the ball and perform the right moves at the right time. However, that precision in your motor skill starts to decay as you become exhausted, and even more if you have endured a sports-related lesion. Moreover, several sports put an asymmetric load in your body, and in order to reduce your risk of lesions, it is recommended to perform a series of pre-round and post-round stretching movements as a part of the prevention protocol.

If you want to become a professional athlete or take sports to the next level, there are a few recovery tips you should keep in mind for a better outcome.

Recover Your Energy and Prevent Lesions in Sports

Physical exhaustion is the number one enemy in sports performance. There are many ways to increase your endurance, but we all have physical boundaries, and ignoring them is not a good idea.

If you want to recover your energy after a strenuous practice or match, dynamic stretch and hydrating is a good idea to start your recovery protocol. Sometimes our endurance depends on proper hydration, and amateur athletes often take for granted this apparently minute aspect.

An active stretch routine will keep your body moving, and it is an excellent way to relax your body and bring it back to a resting state. In some cases, it would be necessary to undergo a passive stretch routine as well, which should be performed by a professional therapist.

In certain sports, it will be necessary to detect and treat altered muscle mechanics that result from an asymmetric load. For example, in tennis, golf, and baseball, it is highly likely one side of your body is working harder than the other. As a part of your recovery protocol, a skilled therapist would be able to stretch and trigger the right spots to release tension and reduce the risk of lesions.

at StretchSPOT, our professional stretch therapists are trained to speed up your recovery time and prevent sports-related injuries through a combination of myofascial release and Active Isolated Stretching. We are also trained in a particular technique called proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) to increase your range of motion and enhance your athletic performance.

Recover from Sports-related Lesions

Sports-related lesions may require a surgical procedure sometimes. If that’s your case, you will also need to recover from surgery and might need to pay special attention to your muscle conditioning. That is why recovering from a sports-related lesion is a serious deal that usually requires the opinion and assistance from a physical therapist. According to studies, a proper physical therapy and muscle strengthening protocols would speed up your recovery and your return to play.

Physical therapy will depend on your lesion, whether or not you’re planning a prompt return to the field, and your progression through the recovery protocol. It will not be the same treating a younger patient with a full range of motion than older adults starting to undergo mobility issues. Thus, be sure to look for a professional therapist who understand sports-related lesions and is properly trained to detect and treat any irregularity.

References:

Brüggemann, G. P. (2005). Sport-related spinal injuries and their prevention. Biomechanics in Sport. Oxford: Blackwell Science, 550-576.

Hindle, K., Whitcomb, T., Briggs, W., & Hong, J. (2012). Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF): Its mechanisms and effects on range of motion and muscular function. Journal of human kinetics31, 105-113.

Magnusson, P., & Renström, P. (2006). The European College of Sports Sciences Position statement: The role of stretching exercises in sports. European journal of sport science6(2), 87-91.

Myklebust, G., & Bahr, R. (2005). Return to play guidelines after anterior cruciate ligament surgery. British journal of sports medicine39(3), 127-131.

Tyler, T. F., Schmitt, B. M., Nicholas, S. J., & McHugh, M. P. (2017). Rehabilitation after hamstring-strain injury emphasizing eccentric strengthening at long muscle lengths: Results of long-term follow-up. Journal of sport rehabilitation26(2), 131-140.

Compression Recovery Boots in Action