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Here’s Why Stretching Exercises Are So Important For The Muscles

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Myles Schneider, 74, a semiretired podiatrist who lives in Reston, stretches for 60 minutes, six times a week. Schneider, who also walks briskly for 45 minutes twice weekly and runs three times a week for 45 minutes in the deep end of a pool, spends more time stretching than he does in actual exercise.

An hour of slow stretching may seem excessive, but it works for Schneider.

When he was into distance running in his 20s, he stretched for about 10 minutes before and after his runs. But he always felt rushed. Since reaching his mid-50s, however, he’s been stretching in the late afternoon or early evening. “After a few minutes, I feel more energized and no longer tired,” he said. “I also really notice myself relaxing mentally, especially if I’m stressed-out about something. Also, I’m certainly more flexible than I was 20 years ago.”

 

Exercise dogma long has extolled the value of stretching, usually as a warm-up before exercise or as a cool-down afterward. By not bracketing stretching to his workouts, Schneider skirts the debate over whether slow stretching – known as “static” stretching – helps or hinders sports performance.

From the 1960s to the late 1990s, fitness professionals firmly believed that static stretching was a useful adjunct before exercise, warming up the muscles and, in doing so, preventing injury. Later, however, research suggested the opposite was true – that it caused muscle fatigue and slower sprinting times in elite athletes.

This prompted many of them to abandon it for “dynamic” stretching, which looks more like real exercise. Today, many experts think a combination of both before a vigorous workout or competition is the best approach.

To understand the controversy, it’s important to know what happens at the muscles’ cellular level during static stretching.

“Our muscles are made of thousands of muscle spindles – like hairs in a ponytail – that give the muscle cell the ability to stretch and contract by sliding past each other in a coordinated fashion,” said Michael Jonesco, an assistant clinical professor of sports medicine and internal medicine at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center. “Static stretching pulls on the cell to the max, and can cause some stretch injury that takes time to recover, and can therefore cause a temporary drop in performance.”

Dynamic stretching, on the other hand, puts the muscles in motion repetitively, and “is essentially preparing your muscle in a gradually progressive fashion to do the job you want it to do,” said Edward Laskowski, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at the Mayo Clinic. “For example, you may want to do a front kick in martial arts or in dance. So you would start with some slow and gentle kicks, gradually increasing speed and intensity until you are performing the kicks you normally would.”

A comprehensive review of the scientific literature over the past 15 years tries to put the controversy to rest. After considering hundreds of studies, researchers concluded that a mixed warm-up – static stretching along with dynamic stretching – was the optimal approach. “Brief periods of static stretching, often followed by dynamic periods of warm-up, is a great means to prepare for competition,” Jonesco said.

Laskowski agreed. “A combination of stretches is likely best,” he said. “Static stretching to ensure equal flexibility side-to-side and to optimize range of motion about the joint, and dynamic stretching as a preparation for a sport or activity, especially one requiring explosive movements.”

Moreover, regular static stretching – whether tied to exercise or not – conveys a number of benefits. It increases range of motion in the joints, enhances flexibility, improves circulation and reduces risk of injury, among other things. “I like to think of stretching as a way to optimize the range of motion about your joints,” Laskowski said. “The more motion you have, the better the muscles can work.”

Recent research in animals and an unpublished preliminary study in humans also suggest that static stretching helps the elderly and those with impaired mobility because it increases blood flow to the muscles. The data showed that regular stretching improved walking ability among those with peripheral artery disease, a condition that causes painful cramping in the lower extremities and afflicts more than 8.5 million Americans. It also might improve mobility for diabetics, who sometimes suffer nerve damage in their extremities. “You are never too old to gain a benefit,” Laskowski said. “Our connective tissue tightens as we get older, so stretching is beneficial as we age.”

For optimal benefit, Laskowski suggested holding a stretch for at least 30 seconds. Don’t bounce, which can cause “micro trauma” to the muscle, he added. Many people stretch both before and after exercise, but given a choice, Laskowski said, he believed the best time to stretch is after, when the muscles and tissues are warm. Symmetry also is important – equal flexibility on each side – to prevent muscle imbalance, which can lead to injury, he said.

Jonesco agreed. “Be sure to do both sides, right and left,” he said. “I also recommend antagonistic muscle pairing as well – front to back, for example, quad and hamstring.”

He dismisses the lack-of-time argument some people make. “Static stretching is simple,” Jonesco said. “It can be done anytime with minimal effort. Do it while in the hot tub or shower. You can do it while sitting in your work chair.”

Schneider always finds that hour. “I put some music on or watch a television show while I stretch. I’m relaxed, I’m not rushed, and it gives my muscles a better chance to stretch out,” he said. “I have kept that schedule to this day.


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Health

The Perfect Guide To Take Care Of Your Arthritic Knee

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A certain nip in the air, frequent urge for a steaming cup of tea and an endearing love for sleeping a little longer inside the snuggly quilt is back. The season of blankets, warmers and soups is here! While it brings with itself festive spirit and joy, it is dreaded by the elderly and arthritis patients for it increases their difficulty. With a dip in the mercury, many patients experience increased knee pain, stiffness and unease due to restricted bodily circulations and elasticity of soft tissues caused by atmospheric pressure. Often mistaken as age-related wear and tear or seasonal change, it could be potential signs of arthritis inflammation of the joints and seek medical intervention

Timely clinical advice and necessary precautions can go a long way in managing this pain that aggravates with the onset of winter. It can be addressed by making certain lifestyle changes.

“People tend to become lazy in winters. This can impact the knees and increase the level of pain in cases where people are already undergoing arthritis treatment.A regular 30-minute workout can help lubricate the joints and stimulate blood circulation in the body,” stressed Dr. Dhananjay Gupta, Fortis Hospital, New Delhi.

 

“Staying active is the key to strengthen the muscles supporting the joint, thereby helping in improved joint function. Along with exercises, staying hydrated can control wear and tear of joints,” he added.

For those suffering from chronic knee pain or knee arthritis, the cold can be worse for the joints. But, if the pain is acute and knee arthritis is in the chronic or degenerative stage, one can consider Total Knee Replacement (TKR) therapy.

Sharing his take on the effectiveness of the therapy, Dr.Gupta shared, “When all the alternate treatments such as medications, arthroscopic interventions fail to provide relief to the patients, a TKR therapy is advised. It is the last option for treating severely impaired knees and is one of the safest orthopedic procedures.By replacing a diseased knee cap with a sturdy implant, it not only helps relieve pain, restores knee function but also improves the individual’s quality of life significantly. With a strict physiotherapy routine, a patient can be completely mobile within 6 weeks of the procedure.”

Take precautionary measures. Sometimes, patients who have sought clinical advice or had a knee surgery in the past, experience pain during winters. A visit to the doctor will help you understand the symptoms better. The medical expert will analyse your medical profile and prescribe precautions accordingly- workouts, physiotherapy, proper diet, supplements etc. to strengthen bones during winters.An active lifestyle can keep joint pain away, especially for arthritis patients. Don’t let the cold wave outdoor deter you from exercise. Push yourself to take small walk breaks at work or while lounging around at home to keep your weight under control.There is nothing that heals the joints like Vitamin D does. Get as much sun as possible to fuel aching joints. And regulate your diet with nutritious and vitamin rich foods such as orange, spinach, broccoli, dairy products and dry fruits.A knee joint takes maximum stress than any other joint, so instead of wearing heavy sweaters and cardigans that can add up to your body weight chose layering of light yet warm clothes.Joint movement improves blood circulation to its peripheral areas leading to reduced stiffness. So, move out of your blankets to stretch and move around a little.

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Health

Eat more dietary fibre to lower risk of non-communicable diseases

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Here’s another reason why you should increase your consumption of dietary fibre!

According to a recent study, high intake of dietary fibre and whole grains is linked to reduced risk of non-communicable diseases as compared to people who eat lesser amounts.

Fibre rich fruits include bananas, oranges, apples, mangoes, strawberries, raspberries, while beans, legumes or darker coloured vegetables too have high-fibre content.

 

Furthermore, whole grain breads or nuts like almonds, pistachios or pumpkin and sunflower seeds too have a high-fibre content in them.

The findings appear in the journal The Lancet.

Observational studies and clinical trials conducted over nearly 40 years reveal the health benefits of eating at least 25g to 29g or more of dietary fibre a day, according to a series of systematic reviews and meta-analyses.

The results suggest a 15-30 per cent decrease in all-cause and cardiovascular related mortality when comparing people who eat the highest amount of fibre to those who eat the least. Eating fibre-rich foods also reduced incidence of coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer by 16-24 per cent.

In addition, a meta-analysis of clinical trials suggested that increasing fibre intakes was associated with lower bodyweight and cholesterol, compared with lower intakes.

The study was commissioned by the World Health Organisation to inform the development of new recommendations for optimal daily fibre intake and to determine which types of carbohydrate provide the best protection against non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and weight gain.

Speaking about it, Professor Jim Mann, corresponding author at the University of Otago, New Zealand said, “Our findings provide convincing evidence for nutrition guidelines to focus on increasing dietary fibre and on replacing refined grains with whole grains. This reduces incidence risk and mortality from a broad range of important diseases.”

The study also found that diets with a low glycaemic index and low glycaemic load provided limited support for protection against type 2 diabetes and stroke only.
Foods with a low glycaemic index or low glycaemic load may also contain added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium. This may account for the links to health being less clear.

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Health

Researchers study patterns of back pain

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Researchers have examined the patterns of back pain over time and patient characteristics in relation to the disability.

In addition, they have identified the extent of healthcare and medication use (including opioids) associated with different patterns.

Back pain is among the most frequently reported health problems in the world.

 

For the study, researchers from the University Health Network’s Krembil Research Institute in Toronto, Canada studied 12,782 participants for 16 years.

They provided data on factors including comorbidities, pain, disability, opioid and other medication use, and healthcare visits.

The results showed that almost half (45.6 per cent) of the participants reported back pain at least once.

The study included four groups of pain: persistent (18 per cent), developing (28.1 per cent), recovery (20.5 per cent), and occasional (33.4 per cent).

The findings, published in Arthritis Care and Research, showed that the persistent and developing groups tended to have more pain and disability, as well as more healthcare visits and medication use than those in the recovery and occasional trajectory groups.

In addition, the recovery trajectory group increased the use of opioids and antidepressants over time.

“The good news is that one in five people with back pain recovered. However, they continued to use opioids and antidepressants, suggesting that people recovering from back pain need ongoing monitoring,” said lead author Mayilee Canizares, postdoctoral candidate from the varsity.

The bad news is that one in five experienced persistent back pain, said Canizares.

People with back pain are a heterogeneous group that may benefit from different approaches to management rather than a traditional one size fits all approach.The distinct groups identified in the study may represent opportunities for more individualised treatment and preventative strategies, Canizares noted.

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