The Benefits of AIS
Active isolated stretching (AIS) differs from the kind of stretching we all do from time to time when we get up from sitting, bend over to pick something up or perhaps before we decide to go for a walk or to the gym. Although it is used specifically and effectively in physiotherapy regimens, and is usually associated with athletes or physically active people, it has many benefits for all of us to help maintain a healthy and flexible body.
So what is AIS? Unlike traditional stretching where you hold a stretch from anywhere between 10 to 30 seconds, AIS asks you to stretch slightly deeper than what usually feels comfortable – but holding it for 2 seconds only. Regular stretches which are held for 10 seconds only use the pull or weight of your body – think of touching your toes to stretch your hamstrings or doing a “butterfly” to stretch your inner thighs, whereas active isolated stretching is done with a rope or a band and focuses on one specific muscle to improve the flexibility or range of motion. The rope provides resistance during the exercise that helps pull the muscle just a little further than your body would naturally allow in traditional stretching. Because the stretches are only held for a couple of seconds before release it allows your body to reach new levels of flexibility with each stretch. This active part of stretching can improve range of motion by 6 -10 degrees.
AIS trains your body and mind to accept a greater range of motion and flexibility in a safe and controlled manner, protects your muscles and is pain free. In traditional stretching your muscles contract if you hold a stretch between 10 and 30 seconds which can produce some unwanted results such as micro-tearing; this occurs because there is a reduction in blood flow and a build up of lactic acid; this causes a formation of scar tissue occurring as the muscle heals from this seemingly innocent stretch. With AIS, fresh blood and oxygen is pumped into the muscle tissue at all times. This means your muscle is still being nourished while you work it, avoiding any tears and consequential scar tissue build up. This also means no pain!
Other benefits of AIS are: the strength building that takes place as you isolate and engage specific muscles. Traditional stretching stretches several muscle groups at once, and although it may feel like they are all engaged, you are unconsciously using the flexibility of one muscle to compensate for tightness in another muscle. With AIS, you’re targeting muscles that might otherwise be overlooked and helping strengthen them.
Whether you suffer from an injury or are hoping to prevent one, AIS might be an appropriate work-out. A Physiotherapist will be able to tell you this by examining you and evaluating your specific needs. They would then be able to recommend specific active isolated stretches for you to do at the clinic and to continue at home. By keeping your body moving and increasing flexibility through controlled stretching techniques, you can actually improve the effectiveness of your Physiotherapy. AIS is often employed where injury is involved in conjunction with other treatments for rehabilitation because it is a gentle and natural way to work through scar tissue and restore pain-free movement. This will also improve the flexibility and strength of not only the injured muscle but the surrounding muscles which may be trying to compensate for the pain. So this can help prevent potential future damage to those muscles.
I think it’s worth considering that including some AIS into your therapy or general exercise routine could potentially change how your body feels when it is correctly relaxed and loosened.
Greater flexibility of movement makes small or even bigger tasks easier and more comfortable to undertake. Perhaps more importantly, when your body is more flexible, you are less likely to fall or injure yourself in other ways. A win all round.
PT. Hannah Foster