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Warming up and stretching should be essential preparation before every exercise. When you do warm-up activities and stretching before exercise, your heart, muscles and joints are prepared for the main exercise. The heart begins to beat faster and this is accompanied by increase in the quantity of blood it pumps out, thus, increasing blood flow to the muscles.

Your breathing improves in readiness for the exercise and more oxygen is brought into the body while carbon dioxide is exhaled. As blood is the carrier of oxygen, muscles will also receive adequate oxygen for energy production.
Stretching involves the elongation of a group of muscles and tendons with similar function. This helps release them from tight positions and therefore reduce the risk of injury during exercise. Warm-up and stretching should be done for at least 10minutes before the main exercise. T

The following are examples of warm-up activities you can do before your bariatric exercise.

  • Walking on a treadmill or around your house or field
  • Low gear bicycling. A stationary bicycle can also serve this purpose
  • Warm-up with elliptical machine
  • Rope jumping

Stretching can be broadly classified into static and dynamic stretch. In static stretch, you stretch a particular muscle as much as you can and you hold it in that stretched position for about 20-30 seconds. However, during stretching, you should do it in such a way that does not cause pain. Any pain may mean that you are overstretching the muscle and muscle tear may occur. If you feel pain, reduce the extent and duration of stretching.

On the contrary, dynamic stretch which is also known as active stretch involves the performance of certain movements that are specific to the type of exercise you want to engage on. By this type of stretch, a muscle or group of muscles is stretched from a resting position slowly until it goes through its complete range of motion. This type of stretch activates the muscles you will use during exercise and increase the range of motion.

Because they are active and require energy, dynamic stretches are often performed after warm-up activities such as walking, cycling that have primed the heart to pump more blood than its baseline level. The stretches are repeated about 6 times but each set has about 5 stretches.

In general, stretching before exercise will offer the following benefits:

  • Release tight muscles
  • Improve blood and oxygen flow to muscles and prevent soreness during exercise
  • Reduce the risk of injuries such as sprains and dislocations
  • Increase the range of motion across joints
  • Increase your ability to sustain exercise

Below are few examples of static stretches

Hamstring stretch

The hamstrings are the muscles on the back aspect of your thigh. They are responsible for flexion at the knee and also extension at the hip. To stretch these muscles, sit on the floor and straightens your lower limbs (extend your knees) while your feet should be at right angle to your legs i.e. your toes should be pointing upwards and heels in contact with the floor. Your back should be straight with no side tilt. Then, lean forward and gently extend your upper limbs with the aim of touching your toes with your hands. Immediately you feel a sensation of stretch at the back of your thighs, you stop and hold it for 20-30 seconds. You then rest and repeat again.

Calf stretch

The calf muscles are at the back of your legs. They are responsible for plantarflexion at the ankle. To stretch these muscles, stand in front of a wall and position your palms against the wall. Ensure your upper limbs are fully extended. The leg in front should be bent at the knee while the one at the back should be extended and the plantar surfaces of your feet in contact with the floor. Then begin to lean forward until you start feeling the stretch at the back of the leg that is behind. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds and then rest before repeating it. Do the same for the other leg.

Side Bends

To do this, stand upright and space your feet about one and a half feet apart. Slightly flex your knees and put your hands on your hips. Then, gradually bend to your right side (no forward or backward tilt). When you begin to feel stretch on your left side, hold the position for 20-30 seconds and rest. Repeat this about 3 times and do the same for the other side.

Below are few examples of dynamic stretches

High knees/knee to chest

While walking or slowly running, raise your knee towards your chest (one knee at a time). This should be as high as possible. Do this alternately i.e. left knee followed by the right knee.

Lunges with a twist

Here you combine a forward lunge with a horizontal twist. The flexors of the hip are stretched by the forward lunge while the twist stretches the muscles of the back. These two movements activate the legs, the hip and core rotation.
Other dynamic stretching exercises include the high kicks, the hip stretch with a twist, T-push-ups, etc.

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