Well, That’s a Stretch…

Those involved in fitness as professional and as consumers know that an important–but often overlooked–part of exercising is stretching. Everybody agrees that it is a good thing but, unfortunately, many of us are inconsistent in our stretching; even worse, some people do it improperly causing more harm than good.

A recent trend in a field allied to fitness is Assisted Stretching. Assisted stretching usually involves a practitioner and is done in-person. It can, however, also be done remotely or as part of a group setting. The “stretcher” helps the “stretchee” (is that a word?) release tension from muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints. A recent article on CNN.com highlights the ways in which assisted stretching is being used to relieve chronic aches and pains. This technique is being used in people of all ages, and it is not just for athletes. In fact, many people who spend a great deal of time sitting or otherwise inactive can develop tightness that can cause discomfort.

Recent studies are not exactly conclusive about how effective assisted stretching is. Can it be better than stretching on one’s own? We can look at this the same way that we look at personal training. Yes, a person can perform the same exercises suggested by a personal trainer on their own, but will they? A personal trainer helps to keep clients accountable, progresses them at an appropriate pace, and helps to prevent injuries. That is why trainers are popular and effective. Likewise, a person can stretch on their own, but will they do it correctly and consistently?

This trend, according to the article is growing rapidly. While more research is likely needed to ascertain the true effectiveness and possible drawbacks, assisted stretching looks like it can help keep our muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints in better shape. That can only be a good thing.

In the meantime, remember to stretch before and after your workout. Questions about how to best do that? Ask a fitness professional who will be happy to help you develop a routine.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong (at Home)?


When I was studying to get my certification as a personal trainer, there was a lot of information about making sure that the workout space was safe. At the gym where I worked, we were pretty conscientious about keeping equipment in working order and either posting a sign that something was broken or removing it from the fitness center altogether. It is all about keeping safe and preventing injuries.

While some gyms are better at this than others, now that so many of us are working out at home, what should we do to make sure our space is in optimal condition to prevent possible injuries? A recent article on CNN.com answers this very question.

The author, Melanie Radzicki McManus outlines several issues of which we should be aware. Some are fairly self-evident, but others often overlooked. Here are the main ideas:

  1. Check the space for potential dangers. This could be electric cords, rugs that move, ceilings that are too low, furniture that is too close together to allow room for proper movement. Make adjustments accordingly.
  2. Wear proper athletic attire. Bare feet (or only wearing socks) is hazardous for a number of reasons. Clothing should fit properly to allow for movement, but not be so big that it is a tripping hazard (like really long pajamas!).
  3. Hire a personal trainer (yes!!!). At home, it is often harder to know if form is correct, if the weights are too heavy or not heavy enough. It is also easy to overtrain by not allowing muscle groups to recover. A fitness professional can help avoiding those pitfalls and there are many excellent ones who have mastered the art of virtual training, or who may come to your home.
  4. Remember what comes before and after the workout. Warming up the muscles before, and cooling down and stretching afterwards are important to preventing injury. Just because it is a home workout does not mean this can be skipped.
  5. Prepare for the unlikely event that you do get injured. If someone else is at home, this is less of a problem, but for those who are alone it is helpful to have a cellphone nearby in case an emergency call needs to be made.
  6. Get outside. A home workout can also take place in nature–as long as the factors above are taken into consideration. Brisk walking, bike riding, yoga, etc., in the great outdoors is wonderful exercise and exhilirating. Remember the sunscreen!

Despite the ongoing surges and lulls in the pandemic, people are getting out a little more. Even so, it looks like gyms may be the among the last places to see a real comeback. If the choice is made to stay at home, remember to keep it safe. There will be no fitness professionals to remove faulty equipment or help with the proper form; there may also not be someone there to see if you are injured. Take the proper steps and enjoy great workouts at home!

What Did I Come Into this Room for…and Other Things I Worry About

PET scan of an healthy brain compared to a brain at an early stage of Alzheimer's disease.

A short, but informative and helpful, article appeared on CNN.com’s health page today that sparked my interest. Entitled, “Is My Senior Moment the Start of Dementia?,” it explores the difference between milder forms of cognitive impairment such as forgetfulness and more serious forms such as Alzheimer’s Disease. The author, Laurie Archbald-Pannone, is an associate professor of geriatric medicine at the University of Virginia.

As I have grown older, I have accepted that my memory is not what it once was. I have noticed that it seems to be much worse when I am under a lot of stress. I will make what I consider to be stupid mistakes like going to the grocery store to buy one thing and leaving with five things–none of which was the original product I intended to buy. I sometimes cannot remember a name or find the right word to express myself. I got so worried at one point (soon after my move to Cleveland and starting three jobs), that I went to a doctor and asked for a test…man, woman, person, camera, TV…I passed too!

Archbald-Pannone’s salient point is that memory loss becomes a problem when it interferes with one’s ability to do everyday activities. For instance, not remembering the name of someone you know but haven’t seen in a few years is not a problem; forgetting the name of someone you see everyday might be. Not remembering how to get to a restaurant you went to one time is probably not a problem; getting lost on the way to the dry cleaner you’ve gone to for years probably is.

The author points out that mild cognitive impairment is a natural part of aging and is usually not cause for alarm. In any case, it is always a good idea to keep one’s primary care physician apprised of any changes or concerns. Sometimes these changes are, in fact, the beginnings of something more serious.

It bears repeating (at least on my blog) that according to the the Alzheimer’s Disease Foundation’s website there are things we can do to prevent the onset of dementia. Their website lists: proper nutrition, mental activities, certain dietary supplements, and physical activity. The last one, of course, is the one that is most compelling to me. We know that cardiovascular exercise helps the heart, but when the heart is strong it helps the rest of the body. A healthy heart and vascular system is better able to circulate nutrient-rich blood to the cells. The better fed the cells, the healthier they remain. This includes brain cells. It bears repeating: physical activity becomes all the more important as we age.

To read Archbald-Pannone’s article, click here: https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/21/health/what-are-early-signs-of-dementia-wellness-partner/index.html.

And now, I’m off to the store to get some buttermilk…right?