Do you get tired just thinking of doing 30 minutes of cardio? Do you think of every possible excuse not to do weight training that often leaves you sore? Worse, have you pulled or strained muscles doing both? If you’re like most of my patients, you answered Yes to both of these.
But, I have some great news for you. You don’t have to do either cardio or weight training to get lean and gain toned, strong muscles as well as build flexibility. What if I told you that you can achieve these fitness goals just by doing something that feels great? And, it won’t cause injuries like improperly done cardio and weight training can. That something is…
Power Stretching to Get Lean, Toned, Strong and Flexibility
If you’re over-50, you know you have to exercise regularly to stay/get fit and minimize your risk for developing certain diseases as you get older. But, if you’re very busy, you may find it hard to get motivated to get to the gym at least 4 times a week to do cardio and weight training. And don’t forget about the time it takes to drive to the gym and even more time just getting motivated to get into your routine.
Then there’s the growing boredom factor. Doing the same cardio and weight training routine over and over starts to become tedious. And, worse, your results start to minimize, or stop. This is where most people start losing their motivation and interest in their fitness goals. And don’t forget about the cost of maintaining a gym membership which becomes a waste of your hard-earned money if you’re not using it like you should.
But, there’s an even more important factor…pain. You may have pulled, kinked, or strained muscles, tendons and ligaments from weight training or doing certain forms of cardio – like running, TRX and/or jumping type workouts. They can make you feel sore all over and you really should lay off them until these injuries heal properly. As a doctor who frequently sees these exercise/sports injuries these injuries are what really dampens someone’s enthusiasm for continuing to exercise at all.
But, recently, I came across some information about a form of exercise that can help you achieve the same benefits of regular cardio and weight training. And it does so without the fear of painful injuries or the bigger time commitment and expense that gyms can involve. It’s really nothing new though. It’s more an elaboration, and perfecting, of a form of exercise that I, and other orthopedic doctors, recommend our patients do before they start their cardio and weight training routines….stretching.
But the kind of stretching I’m talking about is not just your 5-10 minute warm-up toe-touches, windmill side twists, squats or hamstring stretches that you may typically do before getting ready to hop on your treadmill, run, or lift weights. No, this type of stretching is what I would more aptly call power stretching. It incorporates both cardio and resistance exercise into one, 20 minute, very low impact, workout.
One of the perks of power stretching is the extra time it puts back in your life. You don’t have to take additional time out of your busy day to drive to a usually crowded gym and wait for people to get off machines or free weights. You also don’t have to be embarrassed if your gym clothes are starting to look a little worn either. Why? Because, in the privacy of your own home, you can pop in a DVD or follow a download on your computer, do a power stretching program and feel great the rest of the day. You can even invite your spouse, friend, whomever to join in with you.
In addition to giving you more time, here are some of the amazing fitness benefits of power stretching:
- You get a longer, leaner look as all your muscles are dynamically stretched and elongated while also building strength. Weight training isolates muscle groups which shortens them and makes them look bulkier.
- Helps build flexibility – something I highly recommend to my over-50 age patients. Greater flexibility improves your balance and helps you prevent falls and dangerous fractures.
- Better range of joint motion – very helpful to older people afflicted with arthritis who’ve given up on exercise because of restricted motion/pain issues.
- Like cardio, power stretching increases circulation and energizes you.
- Like yoga, power stretching helps relax and de-stress you.
- Helps relieve pain of over-stretched, tight, muscles, ligaments and tendons.
- Good for people with prior injuries or health conditions that have weakened them.
Here’s some basics of how a good power stretching program works:
- Focus on integrating the use of all your muscles in tandem so one group doesn’t dominate/weaken another. This keeps your strength and muscle tone balanced. Your upper body muscles – abs, back, shoulders, arms, neck – will gain as much strength and tone as your lower body – hip flexors, gluteus, down to your ankles.
- Strengthens ligaments and tendons that supports joints helping to keep joints in proper alignment. This helps alleviates pain in joints on movement.
Many people with chronic knee and hip pain have found relief of their symptoms by utilizing a good stretching program. In addition, people with Achilles tendon, and/or plantar flexor ligament injuries, as well as those with chronic neck and back pain have helped their conditions significantly. Research results out of the American College of Medicine recently showed that study participants gained flexibility as well as significant muscle strength and endurance with a stretching program.
There are several stretching programs available on DVD, or by digital download on the internet, by different physical trainers and sports specialists to choose from. These include the Stretchmatic System by Dana Laurie, The Ultimate Guide to Stretching and Flexibility by Injury Fix, or the Stretch Series on Daily Burn.com. In addition, there are numerous stretching programs featured on YouTube.
I don’t endorse one stretching program over another but look for a quality program put together by a certified physical trainer or sports medicine/injury specialist. You’ll be assured of getting the most knowledgeable information about how to stretch properly.
Mark Bromson, M.D.
Ultimate Stretching, http://injuryfix.com/lnd/stretching-dvd.php?gclid=CjwKEAjwg_afBRD3rpChlqiKt1ESJACwY6NkW1bUBh2oeNalQd80mJcHfdFeTexLNrHWVnSS5-bZYxoCOg_w_wcB
Stretchmatic Strength System, http://naturecastproducts.com/stretchmatic/
The X Stretch, Daily Burn, http://tracker.dailyburn.com/workouts/31736-X-Stretch