Welcome back to Deeper Health’s continuing series for boosting immunity. This 2nd part will focus on the importance of stretching, not only for fitness, flexibility and range of motion, but also how it impacts our overall health and immune system function.
Fundamentals of Exercise & Stretching
Exercise is a very key component of good health; our bodies were made to move. The 3 fundamentals of exercise are:
- Cardiovascular (endurance or aerobics), i.e. running, swimming, cycling
- Strength training, i.e. weight-lifting, resistance bands, body resistance (push-ups, pull-ups)
- Stretch (flexibility) i.e. static stretches (muscles held without movement), dynamic stretches (muscle movement during the stretch); dynamic stretching is preferred most of the time
It is essential that everyone incorporate all 3 exercise components to have a balanced fitness program. As a Stretch Therapist, most of my clients admit they don’t stretch nearly enough or not at all (this is appalling because most engage in intensive exercise very regularly)! Unfortunately, most people do not include stretching as part of their exercise programs or daily regimen, resulting in tight, stiff muscles that substantially increase the risk of soft tissue injuries (strained, pulled or torn muscles, tendons, ligaments). Even if you don’t exercise, consistent stretching is a MUST for everyone!
Effects of Inflexibility on the Body
In addition to increased risk of injuries, a lack of flexibility is one factor that contributes to poor posture, and when uncorrected, often leads to many spinal problems, chronic pain, and even breathing issues. Most people have inflexibility and stiffness in the 3 muscle groups explained below; hence, these muscles are at the root cause of multiple issues:
*Hamstrings (the rear leg muscles below the hips and above the knees)
*Hip Flexors (at the hip joint connecting the top leg muscles to groin and lower back)
*Piriformis (behind the gluteal muscles, more commonly called “buttocks”)
Although hip flexors are not directly connected to the piriformis, when taut and/or shortened, can trigger Piriformis Syndrome, which irritates the sciatic nerve and causes deep pain from the lower back down through the legs and even into the feet. Tight hamstrings also contribute to this, as they are connected to the gluteal and piriformis muscles. Although Piriformis Syndrome is not directly caused by a spinal problem, it can be quite painful, which further demonstrates the importance of stretching these 3 key muscle groups regularly.
Stretching & Breathing
Breathing is also impacted by muscle flexibility and posture. There are 2 types of breathing:
*Diaphragmatic breathing (also known as abdominal breathing)—the proper way to breathe primarily using the diaphragm muscles (with assistance from the intercostal muscles located between the ribs). Allows greater lung capacity, a full exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, and does not recruit secondary muscles for respiration. Diaphragm muscles remain strong and flexible, resting pulse decreases, blood pressure stabilizes.
*Chest breathing—improper way to breath primarily using chest (pectoralis minor) and neck muscles (scalenes). Over time, poor breathing often results in chronic neck, shoulder, and upper back pain. Unfortunately, most people breathe this way.
Most common causes of chest breathing: habitual (due to long term breathing pattern), injury to ribs or intercostal muscles, blocked airway, acute infections (viral, bacterial), chronic respiratory problems (i.e. sinusitis, COPD), neurological issues, sleep apnea. Poor posture (especially rounded shoulders and head not carried upright) weakens our abdominal muscles (core), which promotes improper breathing. Also, if muscles that surround the thoracic cavity (erector spinae, latissimus dorsi, trapezius, rhomboids, serratus) are strained or pulled, diaphragmatic breathing will be very difficult.
Stretching & Inflammation
Part 1 of this series discussed the negative impact of inflammation on the immune system as a response to infection, exacerbated by lack of Vitamin D and Zinc. In looking at the inflammation of connective tissue, which is often caused by autoimmune diseases like Rheumatoid Arthritis, Scleroderma, and Lupus, research shows very promising results using stretch therapy. According to a National Library of Medicine (NLM) study from December 2015 on rodents, there was conclusive evidence that stretching significantly decreased inflammatory regulating molecules within the connective tissue, and that connective (soft tissue) is involved in both acute and chronic inflammation. By adding a stretch component to the rodents’ exercise, they saw a decrease of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Best of all, since connective tissue has multiple roles in the body (musculoskeletal system and immune system), “it is both the “container” for immune exchanges throughout the body, as well as the “conduit” through which water, proteins and immune cells return to the blood via lymphatic”.1
Another study from the NLM published in January 2012 showed rodents with inflamed tissue in the lumbar (lower back) area that were treated with stretch therapy (10 minutes twice daily for 12 days) showed significant improvement in gait, pain, and reduced inflammation.2
Putting the Pieces Together
Both NLM studies clearly demonstrate the remarkable effects of stretching, but what’s most fascinating is how the research correlates the benefits of stretch to immune function. The fact that connective (soft) tissue is so profoundly impacted by stretching proves just how imperative it is that we include stretching as part of our daily routine to improve immune function and to mitigate injuries as well!
Another very key benefit of stretch is that it stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and digest state) so the body is more relaxed. As a result, the adrenal glands can better balance the release of steroidal hormones (particularly cortisol and adrenaline), thus the body’s stress response system is better equipped to handle and adapt to stress. Needless to say, stress reduction AND equipping the body to better handle stress further serves to support a healthy and well-functioning immune system.
For additional immune support, I am offering 2 bonuses for the month of May:
*10% discount on all purchases of Thorne Vitamin D/K2
*10% discount on all purchases of Designs for Health Zinc Supreme
Purchase at Deeper Health Supplement Store
(1st time purchasers please enter Registration Code VF1430 to set up new account & enter coupon code HCPC1430WELCOME for 10% off order)
P.S. Download my FREE Guides for 10 Toxic Food & 10 Toxic Personal Care Ingredients to Avoid & Why
P.P.S. BE SURE TO RETURN FOR PART 3 OF THIS SERIES FOR MORE TIPS ON BOOSTING IMMUNITY NATURALLY https://www.facebook.com/DeeperHealthUS/
Schedule a FREE consultation with me to learn more about my services & how you can take charge and manage your health naturally and effectively!