Why is stretching as important as exercise?

It’s that often overlooked ‘boring bit’ at the beginning or end of a class or session, which we rarely find time or inclination for, but did you know that stretching is just as important as regular exercise itself?

Stretching has major benefits, and while it’s important not to overstretch the muscles, there are certain stretches which can help everyone. It may be that you will need specific stretches to suit you, your sport or activity, or your health and fitness level, so it is always a good idea to speak to a personal trainer before you introduce a stretching regime. Find a personal trainer near you.

– Stretching helps improve flexibility by increasing your range of motion
– Regular stretching can help improve posture by elongating the muscles where there may be some unwanted tightening
– There is potential for stretching to decrease the risk of injury when applied before or after exercise, by reducing tension or lactic build up in the muscles
– Increases blood flow, oxygen and nutrients to the muscles therefore helping with recovery
– Stretching can be good for the mind too, as it can help relax the mind while reenergising the body
– Specific stretching can help with the rehabilitation of certain injuries and also help to boost performance. Speak to a personal trainer to find more personally specific stretching for you.

Stretching can be incorporated into your fitness regime so that you are not only benefitting from increased flexibility, mobility and motion but you can also build cardiovascular fitness and muscles strength too.

Choose a flexibility class such as yoga, hot yoga, pilates, or work with a personal trainer to introduce flexibility work for 45-60 minutes at least once a week, and soon you will reap the benefits of a healthy, supple body.

Find a yoga, pilates or flexibility class near you.

How to keep motivated through the Winter months

We’ve all been there – that lull in motivation as the nights draw darker, the days get colder and gloomier, and the seasonal urge to hibernate at home with comfort food overwhelms us. But how do we stay motivated during this period?

It’s all too easy to fall into a lazy rut and once you are there, it is even harder to climb out of it and get ‘back on the wagon’. If you’re already a fitness freak then this may not be as much of a problem, but then there is always the tempting lure of seasonal comfort food which can be hard to ignore.

Winter is also notorious for affecting our moods, with many people suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder or depression, and this can also negatively influence our motivation to stay active. So how do we tackle it?

Find a friend

This one’s easy; if you can socialise and keep fit, then it’s a win-win. Find someone to train with, to go to a class with, to buddy up with for personal training, or to try a new sport. It will keep you motivated to go if you know someone else will be there and you can’t let them down, plus it brings the fun into exercising.

Everything in moderation

We all enjoy a bit of seasonal indulgence and there is no harm in this, as long as you don’t overdo it. A few days of eating the wrong kinds of foods is ok; a few months of it is not, as it will be much harder to motivate yourself to be fit and healthy again. If you try and keep moderately active and only allow yourself to indulge a little throughout Winter and the festive season, it will be easier to maintain your fitness and general health.

Get inspiration

Read a book by a sporting hero, go to a seminar, go on a course, or travel somewhere. Often, all it takes is a little inspiration – it’s all around you, it’s just up to you to find it. Someone else’s story, a new environment, or learning new skills may be all you need to get you motivated and to push on with your fitness.

Change for life

Try not to succumb to the January gym-frenzy – if you want to get fit and be healthy, do it for you, and do it for a long-term change in yourself rather than a few months of whimsical resolution which will never stick. Make sure you are doing it for the right reasons and you will keep yourself motivated, because you want to rather than feel you have to.

 Try something new

Attend a new class – an insanity workout, bootcamp, jazzercise, bikram yoga, TRX, Zumba – there is so much out there and it can really make exercise enjoyable. Gone are the days of the dull gym routines – time is of the essence and you can really make the most of a fitness session with everything there is to offer.