Stretching is a natural physical exercise performed by humans and animals alike. Humans stretch both instinctively, like other animals (watch your cat), and deliberately.

Deliberate stretching for certain parts of the body can have numerous benefits, and stretching is particularly important to do on a daily basis as one ages. One can stretch both muscles and tendons in order to increase flexibility and muscle tone, limit cramps and enhance both physical and mental balance.

Increased flexibility and muscle tone help to prevent injury and enable consistent physical activity. Active lifestyles are essential in both preventing and self-managing chronic diseases such as diabetes.

Many sports activities put particular strain on muscles and tendons, everything from American Football to Football (known as Soccer in the United States) to Golf, Baseball and Swimming, so it is critical for all athletes to stretch before performing these physically demanding pursuits. Stretching can increase performance, and again, limit injury, which depending on the severity could have long-lasting lifestyle impacts if the injured athlete does not get back on their active feet quickly.

Stretching comes in different forms. There are “static” stretches, which are the most common, where a position is held typically for 15-30 seconds (static stretches are further sub-categorized into active and passive forms). Then there are “ballistic” stretches, which are meant to increase range of motion through quick bouncing, which helps to gradually increase the length of muscles.

As with activities such as Yoga, which in large part is a form of mindful stretching and breathing, slow and deliberate stretching itself can be an effective form of stress relief. Stress has been closely linked to the onset of several diseases, such as heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes.

For those with diabetes, it is particularly important to stretch frequently. A common symptom of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes is limited flexibility within the joints, and joint pain, which can lead to limited mobility. This limited mobility can also affect balance and lead to falls and further complications. Stretching can help increase flexibility and limit joint pain for diabetics.

Resources and Further Reading

A great and comprehensive guide to Mindful Stretching out of Berkeley:

The biomechanics of stretching:

Why daily stretching is so important, especially for the elderly:

How stretching can benefit diabetics:


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