One Healthy Change a Month: Stretching

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Try draping over a large exercise ball, face down, for a good back stretch.

I read an NPR article recently that says boomers are aging poorly when it comes to health issues. Well, that’s not going to be me—or you—if I have anything to say about it. How would you like to make one healthy change a month so that by the end of 2013 we’re more energized and fit travelers?

My back injury on our December 2012 AmaWaterways Christmas markets cruise was a big wakeup call. All of a sudden the need to be healthy so that I can travel was pushed right in front of my face. Although I live a fairly healthy lifestyle, the experience made me realize that I need to change my ways. So, I’m introducing a year-long series based on making one healthy change a month. Any health coach, doctor or other medical professional will tell you that making changes in small steps is the most effective way to achieve long lasting results. Let’s get started with February’s healthy change: stretching every day.

We all know that we need to stretch, but most of us associate it with preparing to exercise or something we do immediately after a workout. That’s not what I’m talking about. Stretching should be a part of our everyday routine just for the sake of stretching. Why?

According to an article at, “Without regular stretching, your muscles will tighten and the range of motion in your joints will decrease as you age. This can put a damper on active lifestyles and even hinder day-to-day activities.” As someone who has not stretched much in her life, I can attest to that. Remember the 30 miles of hiking on the Road Scholar Glacier National Park program that Alan and I did? I neglected to stretch before or after the hikes and by the end of the week, my muscles told me all about it.

But there are even more benefits from a daily stretch routine. According to health writer Sheryl Kraft at, “Not only does stretching increase your flexibility and improve your circulation, it helps relieve stress, too.” Did someone say “relieve stress?” I’m all for that.

Several years ago, when I interviewed  fitness expert Nordine Zouareg about his book, Mind Over Body: The Key to Lasting Weight Loss Is All in Your Head, for Oro Valley Magazine (no longer in publication), he talked to me about stretching before getting out of bed. According to Nordine, our minds slowly wake up in the morning, drifting in and out of sleep before waking fully. Then, we get out of bed, our feet hit the floor and we expect our bodies to work immediately. Nordine says that we should be like a dog or cat and stretch slowly before getting up, giving our bodies time to become fully awake and catch up with our minds.

This video from Nivea shows you what I mean:

But we need to do more than that. Here’s a basic stretching routine from And if you click on the thumbnails, you’ll see a very easy to follow demonstration of each stretch.

Don’t leave your new-found flexibility at home. On a road trip, stop the car every 90 minutes for a 10-minute stretching session. If you’re on a cruise, check out the stretch classes, they’re available on most cruise lines. Air travelers, don’t forget these airplane yoga tips from CNN.

Would you like to take this challenge with me? Post a comment to commit to the challenge of stretching every day. For more ideas, join our One Healthy Change a Month Pinterest board (send me an email if you’d like to be a pinner). At the end of each month, we’ll discuss our progress at the My Itchy Travel Feet page on Facebook.

Now, here’s how you can help me. I don’t like to stretching because I’m not flexible and it’s boring. Holding stretches for 30 seconds is such a long time. Do you have any tips for making it more interesting?

Next month, we’ll tackle the challenge of losing 1lb-a-month and why it’s good for our travels.

It’s not too late to join our challenge. Click One Healthy Change a Month to read more.

I am not a medical professional. Before making changes to your health routine, consult your doctor to determine what is best for you.

I have included an Amazon Link to Mind Over Body: The Key To Lasting Weight Loss Is All In Your Head for your convenience. However My Itchy Travel Feet does receive a small percentage for purchases made at

Scratch those itchy travel feet!

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