By Kaleb Holbrook

There are always things in life that we think we don’t have time to do. Things that are seemingly inconvenient that we think skipping them won’t make any difference in the overall outcome. Stretching is one of those activities that people view as an inconvenience and useless, yielding the same general result. But in fact, stretching is extremely beneficial, especially for active people and individuals with cancer. Performing proper stretching exercises is vital for building healthy muscles and joints. Consistently practicing such exercises will improve an individual’s range of motion over time. Maintaining a healthy range of motion will help with comfort and stability while performing other activities or tasks. 


Dynamic Stretching: What It Is and Why It Matters

So, that brings us to the two most important types of stretches; dynamic and static stretching. Dynamic stretching involves a controlled movement. When performing these dynamic exercises, the optimal sets-to-repetitions ratio is around 2-3 sets and 12-15 repetitions. Dynamic stretching should be practiced as warm-up exercises before any physical activity. These exercises help you to loosen up your muscles and joints, reducing the risks of any injuries. Focusing on dynamic rather than static stretching before exercising is key. Performing static stretches before engaging in exercise can potentially have an opposite effect, causing muscles and ligaments to tighten up even more. Patients with cancer are especially more at risk of any injuries caused by exercise due to possible muscle tightness or lack of range of motion in their joints. These issues may be an effect of radiation or the lack of use of these muscles and joints. Radiation treatment causes an individual’s muscles and soft tissue (ligaments and skin) to become stiff and tight. When a muscle or ligament is tight, it is more susceptible to injury. Dynamic stretching can also be beneficial for patients going through chemotherapy. These exercises can increase blood flow and oxygen to the muscles. The increase of blood flow and oxygen helps your body to repair itself. 


Static Stretching: What It Is and Why It Matters

Static stretching is when you stretch a muscle and hold it for a short period, optimally 25-30 seconds. Static stretching should be practiced as cool-down exercises following any physical activity. Studies have shown that stretching after exercising can potentially increase strength gain and range of motion. Performing these stretches after exercising can also reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This soreness is usually typical with novice exercisers and individuals who change their exercise routine. Similar to dynamic stretching, static stretching can also increase blood flow and oxygen to the muscles. These stretches are essential for anyone who exercises regularly and performs exercises involving heavy loads on the muscles and joints during resistance training. Patients with cancer can also experience tremendous benefits from performing these stretches. As I mentioned earlier, radiation can harm an individual’s muscles and joints. When radiation causes muscles and ligaments to become tight, this can cause some pain and even affect your posture. Exercise can help increase blood flow in your body and benefit your cardiovascular system, which will help your body work more efficiently. Static stretching after exercising promotes flexibility, range of motion, and blood circulation throughout the active muscle. These will help ease any discomfort or pain experienced by radiation. 

Exercise is exceptionally beneficial for everyone. Whether it’s prior, during, or after treatments, exercise produces many benefits for patients battling cancer. Focusing on a healthy body can ease discomfort and help us feel better about ourselves. But when exercising, it is essential to take some time to stretch your body before and after exercising.