Movement is a natural animalistic skill practiced by all of us during the course of our lives. For this reason, stretching exercises play a big part in improving and maintaining our overall health and wellness. Exercise in general is performed for various reasons, including increasing muscles strength and stamina, muscle toning and conditioning, maintaining healthy joint mobility and muscle flexibility, preventing the signs of aging, maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system, weight loss or maintenance, managing stress and depression, and also for enjoyment. Stretching your body frequently and regularly also acts to boost the immune system and aids in the prevention of joint restriction and “diseases of affluence” such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, carpal tunnel and obesity.
To understand why this is, it is importance to take a look at the development of exercise through history. Since the dawn of humankind, physical development has followed a natural path that was determined by the practical demands of life in a wild like avoiding threats to survive. Primeval times presented harsher environments full of natural and human obstacles which meant that early man had to know not only how to run, but also walk, balance, jump, crawl, climb, lift, carry, throw, catch, and fight. Between 4,000 BC and 476 AD, civilizations rose and fell through war and conquest imposing physical training on boys and young men in preparing for battle. Later, civilized populations valued the physical culture for sports – seeing the birth of the first Olympic games created by the ancient Greeks. These early sports were all based on practical, natural movement skills and were fundamentally related to the preparedness needed for war. Later, the Romans celebrated the body’s beauty and strength embracing physical training as a philosophical ideal, and an essential part of a complete education; they celebrated the idea of having a sound mind in a sound body. Physical culture started to rise beyond practical necessities to become a means to an end — an “art de vivre”!
During the dark ages (5th – 15th century), education was centered around the Church, focusing on cultivating the mind rather than training the body. It is in this period that the body was seen as sinful and unimportant, spreading the belief that the primary concern of one’s lifetime was preparing for the afterlife. In 1553, the first book to exclusively address the benefits of physical exercise was published classifying, analyzing, and describing exercises, games, and sports from a medical standpoint. Advice was also offered on how to prevent and recover from injuries resulting from these physical pursuits. Over the years, the more civilized populations saw the introduction of modern gyms and workout programs.
The advancements in technology over the course of the last century has majorly impacted the modern lifestyle, making fitness an accessory to the modern man and woman through a luck of motivation; it is up to each of us to exercise or not! Generally most people don’t, and being out of shape has become both ubiquitous and commonly accepted. Despite the plethora of health and fitness methods, programs, and resources we have today, the general population has never been so physically sedentary and out-of-shape resulting in a decline in health today.
“A pattern that had been familiar throughout history is that after a war is fought and won, the tendency is for society to relax, enjoy life, and exercise less. … It appears that as societies become too enamored with wealth, prosperity and self-entertainment, fitness levels drop. In addition, as technology has advanced with man, the levels of physical fitness have decreased.” –Lance C. Dalleck and Len Kravitz
With today’s modern working lifestyles and demands, we find ourselves glued to our desks more frequently, spending longer hours at our desks and in the workplace with a luck of a wide range of movement. This also relates to the cultural changes we have seen and experienced through the advancements in technology where some of us may find ourselves spending long periods of time using mobile phones, watching television or driving for long hours at a time. Our luck of movement generally creates stresses on certain muscles groups that should be stretched and exercised more frequently. Below is a video I found that I feel explains different types of movement and training programs that help us increase our range of movement for a more resilient and balanced body.
As a holistic therapist, I have had the opportunity to experience and treat some common ailments that many of us live with on a daily basis such as neck ache, backache, headaches, shoulder pain and fatigue through the lifestyle choices we all make. Today, stretching and exercising comes in many forms as we have seen in the video above. Through physical exercises like Pilates, Yoga, Ballet and Martial Arts, we can rip some of the many benefits to be experienced from these activities to gradually improve our physical postures for an improved mental and spiritual well being. Practicing these exercises for at least 15 minutes a day may also help increase quality of sleep and act as a non-pharmaceutical sleep aid to treat diseases such as insomnia, help promote or maintain positive self-esteem, improve mental health, maintain steady digestion and treat constipation and gas, regulate fertility health, and augment an individual’s sex appeal or body image, which has been found to be linked with higher levels of self-esteem.
I have demonstrated some stretching exercises above that I feel work quite well in keeping the upper body flexible and well-balanced. These exercises relieve tension pains caused by being stationery and using the hands when typing at a computer desk or using mobile phones for long periods of time. I recommend practicing these particular exercises for at least 3 minutes every 2 hours to keep neck ache, shoulder pain and backache at bay. Massages are also a great way to stretch and elongate the muscles to prevent and relieve the body from aches and pains that arise from lifestyle and injuries. For further advice on safe stretching exercises that can help improve your flexibility and general physical condition, please feel free to get in touch. If you are considering taking up an activity like Pilates, Yoga or Ballet, simply get in touch with Cherry’s Fitness Suite for more information on individual or group classes.
Source: Wikipedia, Art of manliness, Youtube