Stretching, Breathing, for Complete Fitness

By ANNA UNSON-PRICE, MB.COM.PH - MANILA, Philippines -- As a brief recap in case you didn’t catch my last article, we discussed cardiovascular and resistance exercise, two of the four elements you should include in your exercise program to ensure optimum fitness.

Today we’ll talk about the two other components which are every bit as important – Flexibility and Breathing.

III. Flexibility – Stretching the Muscles and Joints

The ability of the muscles and joints to stretch or move through their range of motion decreases with disuse much more than just aging. A 60-year-old who stretches regularly can be significantly more flexible than a teenager who hardly or never stretches. Stiffness is just a small part of what happens when your body loses flexibility. When you move into certain positions and your muscles and/or joints are tight, you are at risk for injury, sometimes a very serious, debilitating injury.

Stretches and poses that open joints and elongate muscles are categorized as flexibility exercise. These types of exercise lengthens the connective tissue that surrounds your muscle fibers, increase the range of motion in your muscles and joints, keeps the spine supple and improves your posture.

Don’t worry that increasing your flexibility will take a lot of long hours and tedious work. Even just a few minutes a day of properly performed stretching can make a lot of difference and is a great way to get started. If you’re not sure how to go about beginning a stretching program, you can research online or in books and magazines. Videos are also helpful as long as you try and make sure that the person teaching the stretch is a knowledgeable and safe resource.

IV. Exercising the Breath – Diaphragmatic Breathing

Learning how to control the breath may seem unnecessary considering we’ve been breathing since we were born, but if we can teach the body to use the diaphragm properly, the way we did when we were infants, we can increase the amount of oxygen our lungs take in per breath and just imagine how even a tiny increase multiplied by about 20,000 breaths per day can benefit the entire body.

As babies, we drew breath properly, expanding as oxygen came into the lungs and deflating when we released carbon dioxide. When we get older however, our breathing becomes shorter and shallower, bringing in less oxygen with each inhalation. Instead of expanding the chest and stomach to accommodate all the new air coming in, we tend to pull inwards and upwards. In times of stress when we most need our breathing to be slow and deep so that the brain can think clearly and react properly, we end up breathing fast, which makes us even more nervous and panicky.

Practicing deep breathing for just a few minutes a day, once a day or whenever you can, not only strengthens the lungs but also does wonders for the rest of the body. When you’re at your most stressed, full, slow breaths can calm the mind and allow the body to think instead of merely reacting. In a state of calm, you can come up with solutions to whatever’s causing the stressful situation and find a better, quicker way out of your problem. Deep, diaphragmatic breathing can also help fix small issues like a “stitch” in your side, hiccups, cramping, dizziness, hay fever, insomnia, etc.

A fitness program that contains these four components will be balanced and effective and net you the most benefits in the shortest amount of time. And if you continue working on them, you can look forward to maintaining youth and health for many years to come.

Fitness Bulletin. Yoga for Kids sessions are ongoing on Fridays at 4 p.m. at Yoga+, the first Yoga Studio in Bonifacio Global City. For inquiries and reservations, call (632)238-2768 or text (63)917-808-3957, or check out their site at
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