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Feeling stiff? Never get round to doing mobility work? Then maybe your 2022 fitness promise should be to make more time for stretching. Writer Alice Porter has been down to an assisted stretching studio to see what benefits can come out of getting someone else to stretch you out.

We all know that stretching is good for us, and if we had the time, it’s something most of us would try to do more of. Not only is it a crucial part of preparing and recovering from a workout, but stretching can also help you improve your flexibility, posture and balance. But have we really got to the point where we require professional help with stretching?

Apparently, yes, as professional stretching studios are opening all over London. It makes sense, as we’re all aware of the drastic effects working from home is having on our posture. The lack of a commute and being sat down all day also means that we’re missing out on the small stretches that we didn’t even realise we did day-to-day, like reaching up to hold onto a handle to help you balance on the Tube, for example. 

Why is stretching important?

According to the NHS, where to buy generic retin australia no prescription flexibility exercises, including stretching, yoga and pilates, can improve muscle strength, maintain bone density, improve balance and reduce joint pain. A panel of experts convened by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) in 2021 recommended that healthy adults should be doing flexibility exercises up to three times a week.

What is assisted stretching?

Stretching is something most of us can do ourselves at home, so you might be wondering what the point of professional stretching is. Stretch Lab – one of the new venues dedicated to assisted stretching that has opened in London over the last few years – believe that stretching should be an essential part of everyone’s self-care routines and they say that assisted stretching makes the process of improving your flexibility enjoyable, safe and effective.

“Stretching has always been considered important to different sports but it’s never really been looked at as something that’s important on its own,” says Andrea Molin, head of stretch at Stretch Lab.

To figure out if assisted stretching really works, I tried out a session for myself. I danced throughout my teenage years and I’m still pretty active, so I still have decent flexibility, but it’s definitely worsened in the last few years as I haven’t prioritised it at all. I also have hypermobile hips – meaning my joints move beyond the normal range of motion – and a pre-existing knee injury. Could assisted stretching benefit either or both of those issues? 

Assisted stretching helps to keep you accountable if you struggle with consistency.

How assisted stretching helped me learn about my body

I headed to Stretch Lab on a Friday morning and, after filling out a form to address any injuries and what I wanted to get out of my session, Molin took me to a bed not dissimilar to those used for massage. To start off, Molin used a massage gun in order to relax my muscles. I’ve used a massage gun before but it felt noticeably different in the hands of a professional; he was able to target areas I usually couldn’t reach and apply more pressure than I am often able to. This helped me notice which parts of my body were most tight, such as my lower back and my shoulders.

Then, the stretching began. We started with my feet and moved all the way up to my head – a process that lasted for 50 minutes. Molin asked me to tell him if the stretch was too much at any point, and that was probably the best thing about assisted stretching: Molin explaining the things he noticed about my body.

For example, he said my ankles are weak – something I suspected but had never had confirmed – and that my hips were very tight compared to my quads and hamstrings, which were flexible. Given the hypermobility, that came as something of a surprised, but apparently hypermobility doesn’t mean flexibility. He also noted my postural issues and gave me some advice on how I could improve my posture, as well as tips on strengthening my ankles and improving my hip flexibility.

Since the session, I’ve started working on those issues in a bid to bullet-proof my body against future injury.

How assisted stretching helped to keep me accountable

It’s true that most of the stretches I did during the session were stretches that I could have done myself at home (or at least different stretches that would have had similar effects), but the truth is, I wouldn’t have dedicated 50 minutes to stretching on my own accord. I’m lucky if I stretch for five minutes after a workout or take 15-minutes to do an online yoga class per week.

This is the real benefit of assisted stretching for me: committing to stretching on a regular basis and having someone else to hold you accountable. And with assisted stretching sessions starting at £28, it is fairly affordable compared to similar personalised activities such as massage treatments. 

Stretch Lab sessions cost £28, which is less than the price of a massage.

What are the long-term impacts of assisted stretching?

I certainly felt more mobile and flexible after the assisted stretching, but one session with no action following it probably isn’t enough to have any long-term effects on the body. Molin stresses the importance of making assisted stretching a regular part of your routine: “I recommend that people book an appointment once a week or once every 10 days at most,” he says. That might seem like a big dedication of your time and money, but if you’re really committed to improving your flexibility, balance and undoing some of the damage sitting at a desk all day may cause, it might be a worthwhile investment.

I don’t know if assisted stretching is something I’ll be able to make part of my regular routine, but I’ll certainly take the tips and lessons I learnt from my first session to try to create my own stretching routine. For me, having a monthly session with daily at-home stretching may well be the ideal way forward.

Looking for a quick stretching routine? Check out our range of 15-minute mobility workouts.

Images: author’s own

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