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What a Stretch

- November 1, 2019 by Paula Tetrault (View all posts by Paula)

Have you ever noticed that just before babies go to sleep, they often stretch? They do a full body—hands reaching as far as they can, toes pointed—all out stretch. Where did they learn that? Alternatively, have you noticed that when animals get up, they often stretch? They sometimes look like they have been doing yoga for years. Where did they learn that? The fact is that babies and animals innately do what is needed to protect their bodies, while we as adults have excuses as to why we don’t take care of ourselves like, “I’m too busy,” or “That will take too long.”

Professional athletes do not just walk onto the field, play their best game ever, and go home. They have a whole warm-up routine that includes stretching and movements that get the blood flowing. They want to ensure that they prepare their bodies for what they are about to do.

So then, why do we not see employees stretching? Why is it not a part of the daily routine? Why should the preparation process for work in a manufacturing plant or a construction site be any different from that of an athlete?

Many people move incorrectly because they have tight muscles or de-conditioned muscles. Yet, flexibility and strength are crucial to most work tasks.

Employees in jobs that are prone to muscle strains and repetitive motions should prepare for the tasks they will be doing. They would benefit from stretching and warming up just as an athlete would.

Everyday work-related injuries are soft tissue damage such as sprains and strains. Often these can be prevented. One way to address the possibility of an injury is by preparing the muscles for daily activity. This preparation gives the body a chance to warm up and get the blood flowing.

There also may be a psychological benefit at work in a stretching program. Company managers and workers together in a space doing an everyday activity can create bonding and increase workplace morale. This can be a time that creates the perception of caring and support felt by employees from management.

A basic warm-up or pre-work stretch takes no more than 5-10 minutes. To get motivated, encourage employees to set simple goals such as:

  • I will be able to touch my toes in two months.
  • I will be able to bend over and tie my shoes.
  • I will be able to balance on one leg.

However, companies are better off implementing a comprehensive ergonomics program to address engineering and administrative controls and implement a stretching program as an element of the overall ergonomics program. It does take time, but it is time invested, not wasted.