by Matt Stemley

The title of this article hits the nail on the head; we need to both STRETCH and EXERCISE to best look after our health.  Below we hope you will find some compelling information to convince you to do BOTH if you are not already!!

Regular stretching and regular exercise promotes NORMAL and HEALTHY resting length of your skeletal muscle tissue (aka all your bodily muscles).  Your muscle tissue needs to stay stretched out so you can move and NOT BE STIFF.  Your muscles need to be exercised because they need blood flow in order to stay healthy and clear out the waste products that make build-up and you feel tired, sluggish, inflamed ect.

In short, stretching OPTIMIZES your body’s ability to move, and EXERCISE provides additional blood flow that is RESTORATIVE and NURTURING.  When you do both you tell your body “HEY I LOVE YOU”, and in time your body will change in amazing ways!!!

Here are some creative examples using spaghetti noodles to help you visualize what I am talking about….

Noodle example 1:  Using noodles to understand WORK CAPACITY and INJURY RISK

Get a bundle of spaghetti.  Rubber band it together.  This effectively (very effectively) mirrors the layout of skeletal muscle tissue.  Each noodle represents a myofibril or muscle fiber.  The collection of these myofibrils makes up a muscle (like your biceps or your abs).  When you get stronger you increase the cross sectional area of each muscle fiber (ie…your noodles get thicker and stronger)…just like a thicker chain can hold more weight, as your “noodles” aka your muscle fibers get thicker they can hold more weight and do more work.

When you don’t use your muscles they become thinner, weaker and more susceptible to tears and injury (for most people, the common sites of injury are shoulders, hips and knees).  To visualize this example, take away half of the noodles in your rubber band bundle and try and break the bundle in half.  The bundle of noodles (aka the muscle) broke pretty easy right?  The same applies to the muscles in our body.  Improving your muscle tone by engaging in exercise helps to prevent muscular injury.

Noodle example 2:  Using noodles to understand the importance of STRETCHING and BLOOD FLOW

When a muscle is starved of blood, not stretched or exercised it becomes stiff and inflexible.  When you buy noodles they are straight and stiff.  BUT if you take that noodle and expose it to water it becomes soft and pliable.  If your muscles (aka noodles) become stiff do you think they will want to bend?  Heck no.  When you DON’T exercise and stretch you DON’T  bring the same level of “water”… aka… BLOOD to your muscles.  Your muscles as a result become very unhealthy (stiff and weak).  You rely on your muscles EVERY SINGLE DAY to do EVERY SINGLE TASK IN YOUR DAY.  Exercising them is saying “Thank you for everything you do, and I love you”. 

If you are stiff, in pain ect….ask yourself this question:  “do I exercise and stretch as much as I should? Aka…am I walking around in a body suit made of stiff spaghetti noodles or soft spaghetti noodles”?

Let’s close this out:  Here are the recommendations to follow

ACSM recommends  working out at least 2-3 days per week for strength training.  ACSM recommends 3-5 days per week for cardiovascular training.  ACSM recommends stretching AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE…you can (and should) stretch 7-days per week!!

People with chronic diseases like cancer are not barred from making physical progress in becoming healthier when compared to “other” people who have not been affected by a chronic disease.  The reason that it may seem like you are disadvantaged that way is because of the shared situational difficulty.  Your home, social and professional lives may be totally uprooted in the days, weeks and years following your cancer diagnosis.  Oftentimes (but not always) those who get a chronic disease such as cancer get it because of ignoring a healthy lifestyle for too long.  Ignoring your health is MORE STRESSFUL ON YOUR BODY THEN MAKING THE TIME TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR HEALTH.  The number 1 thing that I have been told in school is that “sitting is the new smoking”.  Smoking directly causes cancer….AND GUESS WHAT…so does excessive sitting aka….excessive inactivity.  Be proactive even if you still feel fine!  The things you do or don’t do add/compound over time and as we age those things catch up to us!  Invest in your health now and as you age your return on investment will be a higher standard of living!

This is not an attack on you but hopefully a nice little read to light your motivational fire!  We are getting ready to head into the fall, into the holidays and into the new year…that means new challenges to your health but also NEW OPPORTUNITY!!  Really take advantage of it, and GO FOR IT!  Shoot to be STRONG and PAIN FREE!  It may not be as hard as you think but you do have to be DILIGENT.

Diligent to strength train at least 1-2 more times outside of your sessions at Maple Tree Cancer Alliance…diligent to work on your heart health at least 2-4 more times outside of your sessions at Maple Tree Cancer Alliance  during the week….and diligent to stretch PURPOSEFULLY each day outside of your sessions at Maple Tree Cancer Alliance.

Set your oven timer, phone timer or something that will break your routine and remind you to take time for your health…allocate yourself 20 mins if you want to do a strength workout (1-2 of those per week outside of your Maple Tree appointment)….allocate yourself 15-30 mins if you want to do a cardio workout (schedule 2-4 more outside of your Maple Tree appointment)…allocate yourself 5-10 mins for a good stretch session (every day outside of your Maple Tree appointment).

Take care and really make this year about YOU!