With the seasonal change (finally!) upon us, it’s important to consider how the cooler weather and slower pace can impact our muscles and cause unnecessary body aches and pains.
Here in the Pacific Northwest, we all know how important it is to take advantage of those brisk sunny days to boost our mood and Vitamin D production, and it is just as important to warm up those muscles before you head out on that scenic walk, hike or ride. When the temperatures drop, dynamic stretching (moving large muscle groups in big motions) is a great way to get blood flowing through those muscle fibers to avoid soreness and injury.
Dynamic stretches are active movements where joints and muscles go through a full range of motion. As you move through a full range and your joints become warmer, you increase the synovial fluid that lubricates and cushions those joints. The dynamic stretches aren’t held for any length of time and they are designed to get the body moving in a safe way.
Some easy movements that feel good are large arm circles, trunk rotations while swinging your arms side to side, hip circles, leg pendulum swings and walking lunges. These stretches are meant to be gentle and repetitive, so go easy with your joints, and as always, if you are recovering from an injury, be extra mindful with movements in those areas.
If you only have 20 or 30 minutes for an outside activity, try using the first 10 minutes of your time to perform some of these dynamic stretching movements while walking. Exaggerate the length of your stride for some walking lunges, or move your arms through their full range of motion with arm circles and shoulder rotations, taking a little more time to focus on how your muscles feel as they become warmer.
The final 5-10 minutes of your outdoor activity is a great time for a bit more static stretching with longer hold times to cool down the muscles before heading back inside.
Remember, any movement is better than no movement. Whether you have 10 minutes for a quick walk around a parking lot or several hours for a hike, fresh air and moving your body is the best medicine. Every little bit adds up to better health and longevity.
Stay well! – Kristi ☀