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Dancing in the Streets

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Warm-Up, Cool-Down, or Both?

Debate raged for the last 20 years over whether people should stretch before or after exercising. That question has been pretty well answered in the last few years - stretching is best done when the muscles are warm. By stretching after you've exercised, as a cool-down technique - you're able to achieve and retain your maximum stretchability.

Of course, some people may want to stretch first as well. If you're muscles are usually tight, stretching first does help prepare you for exercise. Just be sure to stretch slowly and carefully, paying full attention to what you're doing. Stretching is best approached as a Zen-type activity. See the muscle lengthening in your mind.

So if you're stretching as a cool-down, what do you do to warm-up? Light jogging is a good warm-up, if that's possible for you. Jumping jacks, walking lunges, knee hugs, arm rotations, ankle rotations, and carioca moves are excellent warm-up activities, preparing your body for the physical work of sports and exercise.
As Martha and the Vandellas sang back in the 1960s, summer's here! There's so much to do and we want to make sure we have a great time. Baseball, basketball, volleyball. Swimming and surfing. Walking and running. Hiking and climbing. Rollerblading and skateboarding. Now that summer's here, everything's possible and everything's available.

Whether you live near the Maine woods, the plains of Nebraska, the beaches of southern California, or the glories of New York City's Central Park, summer is the time to be outdoors. Summer is the time to be active. It's important to get prepared for all this activity to ensure we can have fun all summer long.

This is especially challenging when you sit at a desk Monday through Friday and can't wait to get started on Saturday morning. Seven AM finds you on the tennis court or the golf course, ready to start slamming balls around. Or you hit the track and start pounding out the first few laps of your three- or four-mile run. Or you paddle out to meet the waves, ready to ride one in and rule the world.

What happens to many of us on these gung-ho Saturdays is a range of unwelcome injuries - muscle pulls, tendon strains, ankle sprains, or worse. These injuries are unexpected and most unwelcome. They may restrict our activities for several weeks and interfere with our summer plans and summer fun.

The solution is preparation. If you're older than 25, the reality is you have to prepare for physical activity. And even if you're younger than 25, it's still smart to prepare.

Regular exercise during the week will prepare you for all your weekend summer fun. 1,2 One of the most important benefits of regular exercise relates to training your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints to do physical work. Exercise teaches your muscles to support heavy loads, and exercise teaches your joints how to handle mechanical stresses throughout their full ranges of motion.

The result is you're able to play your sports and do your activities full out. You're already pre-prepared by the exercise you've done during the week.

Now this doesn't imply you can go out on the tennis court and start serving at 100 miles per hour. Nor can you start your Saturday morning run at full speed. Nor can you start spiking balls over the volleyball net in the first five minutes of your practice game.

It's still important to warm-up and get into the rhythm of the activity or game. Loosen up and get all the parts moving before reaching your peak. And be sure to do some cool-down activities afterward. For most of us, the cool-down is just as important as the activity itself. Cooling-down helps us build muscle tone and improves flexibility, so our sports performance and skill level can continue to develop and improve.

Your chiropractor will be glad to help you design an exercise program that will work for you and help ensure a summer of fun!3

1Reinold MM, et al: Current concepts in the scientific and clinical rationale behind exercises for glenohumeral and scapulothoracic musculature. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 39(2):105-117, 2009
2Sturnieks DL, et al: Exercise for falls prevention in older people. J Sci Med Sport February 18th, 2009
3Hoskins W, et al: How to select a chiropractor for the management of athletic conditions. Chiropr Osteopat 17:3, 2009
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