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Perhaps no aspect of senior fitness is overlooked as often as stretching. Stretching in the morning may be the most outstanding way to make the most of every day. Regular morning stretches help maintain overall flexibility, which, in turn, affects the rest of our lives. Stretching prevents every day injuries and allows our muscles to perform at their maximum potential. In addition, stretching is simple, requiring no additional equipment or physical skills, and demanding only a little bit of time.

Like a good tune up for an automobile, daily stretching, especially in the morning, helps work out any "kinks" in your body. Also, stretching in the morning prevents those "kinks" from happening to begin with. Muscle and back pain, for example, can be both alleviated and prevented by a good program of daily stretching.

In addition, stretching prepares your body for the rest of the day. Balance and coordination are improved and flexibility is increased. The body's range of motion and ease of movement are heightened, and muscles are prepared for activity. The mind, too, benefits from the relaxation, peace, and calm that is induced through just 10-15 minutes of stretching each morning. Mental and physical tension, as well as anxiety and blood pressure can be reduced through focusing on the muscles as you stretch in the morning.

Although you don't have to be an expert in order to stretch, there are some important guidelines that will help you make the most of a morning stretching session. If you don't have any experience with stretching, several dozen books and online resources exist to show you how. Many of these include pictures as well as text. Similar books and websites cover other stretching methods such as yoga.

No matter what method you choose, make certain and listen to your muscles during stretching. As you execute each stretch, push yourself to the point where the muscle feels strained, but not in pain. When you reach the point where the muscle feels tight, hold the position for 10-15 seconds until the muscle loosens, then stretch a little further. In this manner, you can increase your range of motion without experiencing discomfort or pain. While stretching, avoid the impulse to bounce, pushing the muscle past the point of tolerance momentarily. Bouncing may enable you to stretch a little further, but it greatly increases the chance of injury.

For maximum benefits, physical fitness experts recommend stretching uniformly, meaning that each stretch on one side of the body (your right leg, for example), should be matched by a stretch on the other side (your left leg). In addition, make sure to stretch complimentary muscles if you stretch the muscle on the front of your leg (called the quadriceps), stretch the complimentary muscle on the back of your leg (the hamstring).

Initially, you may not be able to move through a wide range of motion. Don't let this frustrate you. Each day you will find yourself able to stretch a little further, and the stretching will become less stressful and more enjoyable. Muscles that have not been stretched in a long time (years, for some of us) take time to regain their flexibility. Hang in there! The benefits of a flexible body far outweigh the time and discomfort you may go through when you start stretching daily.

Make sure you keep yourself in the habit of stretching each day. Skipping a few morning sessions will result in muscles tightening back up. Try and create a schedule (10-15 minutes per day) and stick to it. If you can manage to keep up with regular morning stretching, you will feel the benefits in no time.

We can do many things to aid us in maintaining a fit and healthy lifestyle. No matter what you choose to do, begin each day with a stretching session. Few activities are as simple, requiring no special equipment or expertise. Your body will feel and respond better and will be able to perform to its highest potential. Injuries, aches, and muscle strain can be avoided, and the rest of the day's physical activity will be greatly aided by starting off your day with a good stretch. Most importantly, after you have established a habit of stretching each morning, you will feel great. So warm up before you start each day. Stretch!