I have had problems with my back on and off for a few years, not helped by the fact that I had my kids by caesarian just 18 months apart. Eventually, after much grumbling – from me and my back, I was sent to a physio who gave me a program of exercises for my back and a stern talking to.
Not only was my physio (who I was lucky enough to see on the NHS) a firm advocate for the importance of stretching the back, he is also a football referee and a keen sportsman.
As well as giving me a set of exercises to do, many of which are based on Pilates, he told me two things which have stayed with me.
- Back pain is helped by exercise. Bed rest is not the answer unless you really can’t move at all.
- You should not spend longer than 45 minutes sitting down.
I’ve read quite a lot in recent months about the fact that many health practitioners consider sitting to be the new smoking but many of us struggle with a sedentary lifestyle and its effects.
Even our kids do a daily mile walk in school because they are being taught how important exercise is for their health. Not only that but their headmistress wisely says that whilst they’re walking they have a golden opportunity to sort out disputes and petty arguments and become friends again.
With shame I have to admit that my kids are far healthier than I am. I walk the kids to school and back and do a weekly pilates class but that’s it.
The rest of the time I am sat in armchair blogging.
No, it’s not doing me any good and yes I really should do something about it but time just runs away with us, doesn’t it?
It’s quite interesting that, now many of my friends are over 50, as I am, how many of us are recognising we need to do more exercise just to get moving in the morning.
In fact, I was recently gobsmacked when a male friend of mine confessed his new passion was yoga and he did a basic sequence every morning to ease himself into the day! This is someone who spends the rest of his time biking around the UK in full leather regalia.
I was recently sent an innovative new product by HoMedics to try out – the HoMedics STRETCH mat which promises to put you through a selection of yoga stretches without you having do much other than lie there and relax – sounds ideal, right?
The idea behind the STRETCH mat is to bring the benefits of yoga into your day, helping you to release tension and improve flexibility with immediate benefits for the shoulders, hips and back.
It is not what I was expecting. I envisaged lying on something extra padded whilst drifting off to the sound of Whalesong but actually the mat puts you through a work-out – albeit a gentle one.
The mat mimics yoga-style stretches by inflating precision controlled air chambers in sequence to encourage your lumbar region to stretch, release and relax.
The HoMedics STRETCH mat is easy to set up – simply unfold it, position the headrest and plug it in.
It is operated by a handheld control and there are 4 pre-programmed sequences to choose from.
- Twist – A short session that focuses on relieving tension in shoulders and hips.
- Flow – A progressive flow of stretches that gently mobilise the whole length of the spine, leaving you feeling refreshed and supple.
- Energise – An uplifting program designed to help you refuel and boost your energy levels.
- Stretch – An ‘all-round’ treatment to provide a refreshing antidote after staying seated for a long period of time.
The sequences are of varying duration and you can pause, play and customise the intensity of each one to suit your flexibility.
When you’ve finished using the mat, simply fold it away again. It has a handle so you can carry it from home to the office.
After using the mat for the first time you are advised not to use it again for 48 hours to give your muscles the chance to recover and I can certainly see why.
I tried the gentlest stretch programme and although it is relaxing I really felt it in my back afterwards. I felt taller, which is good, but slightly achy as though I had had a good exercise session.
I will be testing the HoMedics Stretch Mat for the next 4 weeks to see what difference regular yoga stretches make to my daily routine and I can already see that it will be really easy just to lay the mat out and take advantage of 10 – 15 minutes or so of stretching to ensure that my back doesn’t seize up.
Take a look at the video below for a clearer idea of what the STRETCH mat can do.
The mat requires very little space – just access to an electrical socket – and you don’t need exercise gear or any other accessories.
Look out for my next posts where I’ll be talking about the benefits of stretching in more detail and how I use the STRETCH mat during the day.